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Title: A Modern Instance
Author: Howells, William Dean, 1837-1920
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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A MODERN INSTANCE

By William Dean Howells



INTRODUCTION.

Mr. Howells has written a long series of poems, novels, sketches, stories,
and essays, and has been perhaps the most continuous worker in the literary
art among American writers. He was born at Martin's Perry, Belmont County,
Ohio, March 1, 1837, and the experiences of his early life have been
delightfully told by himself in _A Boy's Town_, _My Year in a Log Cabin_,
and _My Literary Passions_. These books, which seem like pastimes in the
midst of Howells's serious work, are likely to live long, not only as
playful autobiographic records, but as vivid pictures of life in the middle
west in the middle of the nineteenth century. The boy lived in a home where
frugality was the law of economy, but where high ideals of noble living
were cheerfully maintained, and the very occupations of the household
tended to stimulate literary activity. He read voraciously and with an
instinctive scent for what was great and permanent in literature, and
in his father's printing-office learned to set type, and soon to make
contributions to the local journals. He went to the state Capitol to report
the proceedings of the legislature, and before he was twenty-two had become
news editor of the _State Journal_ of Columbus, Ohio.

But at the same time he had given clear intimations of his literary
skill, and had contributed several poems to the _Atlantic Monthly_. His
introduction to literature was in the stirring days just before the war for
the Union, and he had a generous enthusiasm for the great principles which
were then at stake. Yet the political leaven chiefly caused the bread
he was baking to rise, and his native genius was distinctly for work in
creative literature. His contribution to the political writing of the day,
besides his newspaper work, was a small campaign life of Lincoln; and
shortly after the incoming of the first Republican administration he
received the appointment of consul at Venice.

At Venice he remained from 1861 to 1865, and these years may fairly be
taken as standing for his university training. He carried with him to
Europe some conversance with French, German, Spanish, and Italian, and an
insatiable thirst for literature in these, languages. Naturally now he
concentrated his attention on the Italian language and literature, but
after all he was not made for a microscopic or encyclopaedic scholar, least
of all for a pedant. What he was looking for in literature, though he
scarcely so stated it to himself at the time, was human life, and it
was this first-hand acquaintance he was acquiring with life in another
circumstance that constituted his real training in literature. To pass from
Ohio straight to Italy, with the merest alighting by the way in New York
and Boston, was to be transported from one world to another; but he carried
with him a mind which had already become naturalized in the large world of
history and men through the literature in which he had steeped his mind. No
one can read the record of the books he had revelled in, and observe the
agility with which he was absorbed, successively, in books of greatly
varying character, without perceiving how wide open were the windows of his
mind; and as the light streamed in from all these heavens, so the inmate
looked out with unaffected interest on the views spread before him.

Thus it was that Italy and Venice in particular afforded him at once the
greatest delight and also the surest test of his growing power. The swift
observation he had shown in literature became an equally rapid survey of
all these novel forms before him. The old life embedded in this historic
country became the book whose leaves he turned, but he looked with the
greatest interest and most sympathetic scrutiny on that which passed
before his eyes. It was novel, it was quaint, it was filled with curious,
unexpected betrayals of human nature, but it was above all real, actual,
a thing to be touched and as it were fondled by hands that were deft by
nature and were quickly becoming more skilful by use. Mr. Howells began to
write letters home which were printed in the _Boston Daily Advertiser_, and
grew easily into a book which still remains in the minds of many of his
readers the freshest of all his writings, _Venetian Life_. This was
followed shortly by _Italian Journeys_, in which Mr. Howells gathered his
observations made in going from place to place in Italy. A good many years
later, after returning to the country of his affection, he wrote a third
book of a similar character under the title of _Tuscan Cities_. But his use
of Italy in literature was not confined to books of travels; he made and
published studies of Italian literature, and he wove the life of the
country into fiction in a charming manner. Illustrations may be found in
_A Foregone Conclusion_, one of the happiest of his novels, whose scene
is laid in Venice, in _The Lady of the Aroostook_, and in many slight
sketches.

When Mr. Howells returned to America at the close of his term as consul, he
found warm friends whom he had made through his writings. He served for a
short time on the staff of _The Nation_, of New York, and then was invited
to Boston to take the position of assistant editor of the _Atlantic
Monthly_ under Mr. Fields. This was in 1866, and five years later, on the
retirement of Mr. Fields, he became editor, and remained in the position
until 1881, living during this period in Cambridge. He was not only editor
of the magazine; he was really its chief contributor. Any one who takes the
trouble to examine the pages of the _Atlantic Index_ will see how far his
work outnumbers in titles that of all other contributors, and the range of
his work was great.

He wrote a large proportion of the reviews of books, which in those
days constituted a marked feature of the magazine. These reviews were
conscientiously written, and showed penetration and justice, but they had
besides a felicitous and playful touch which rendered them delightful
reading, even though one knew little or cared little for the book reviewed.
Sometimes, though not often, he wrote poems, but readers soon learned
to look with eagerness for a kind of writing which seemed almost more
individual with him than any other form of writing. We mean the humorous
sketches of every-day life, in which he took scenes of the commonest
sort and drew from them an inherent life which most never suspected, yet
confessed the moment he disclosed it. He would do such a common-place
thing as take an excursion down the harbor, or even a ride to town in a
horse-car, and come back to turn his experience into a piece of genuine
literature. A number of these pieces were collected into a volume entitled
_Suburban Sketches_.

It is interesting to observe how slowly yet surely Mr. Howells drew
near the great field of novel-writing, and how deliberately he laid the
foundations of his art. First, the graceful sketch which was hardly
more than a leaf out of his note-book; then the blending of travel with
character-drawing, as in _A Chance Acquaintance_ and _Their Wedding
Journey_, and later stories of people who moved about and thus found the
incidents which the author had not to invent, as in _The Lady of the
Aroostook_. Meanwhile, the eye which had taken note of surface effects was
beginning to look deeper into the springs of being, and the hand which had
described was beginning to model figures also which stood alone.

So there followed a number of little dramatic sketches, where the persons
of the drama carried on their little play; and since they were not on a
stage before the spectator, the author constructed a sort of literary stage
for the reader; that is to say, he supplied by paragraphs what in a regular
play would be stage directions. This is seen in such little comedies as _A
Counterfeit Presentment_, which, indeed, was put on the stage. But instead
of pushing forward on this line into the field of great drama, Mr. Howells
contented himself with dexterous strokes with a fine pen, so to speak, and
created a number of sparkling farces like _The Parlor Car_.

The real issue of all this practice in the dramatic art was to disengage
the characters he created from too close dependence on the kind of
circumstance, as of travel, which the author did not invent, and to give
them substantial life in the working out of the drama of their spiritual
evolution. Thus by the time he was released from editorial work, Mr.
Howells was ready for the thorough-going novel, and he gave to readers such
examples of art as _A Modern Instance_, _The Rise of Silas Lapham_, and
that most important of all his novels, _A Hazard of New Fortunes_. By the
time this last novel was written, he had become thoroughly interested, not
merely in the men, women, and children about him, but in that mysterious,
complex order named by us society, with its roots matted together as in a
swamp, and seeming to many to be sucking up maleficent, miasmatic vapors
from the soil in which it was rooted. Like many another lover of his kind,
he has sought to trace the evils of individual life to their source in this
composite order, and to guess at the mode by which society shall right
itself and drink up healthy and life-giving virtues from the soil.

But it must not be inferred that his novels and other literary work have
been by any means exclusively concerned with the reconstruction of the
social order. He has indeed experimented with this theme, but he has always
had a sane interest in life as he sees it, and with the increasing scope
of his observation he has drawn his figures from a larger world, which
includes indeed the world in which he first began to find his characters
and their action.

Not long after retiring from the _Atlantic_ he went to live in New York,
and varied his American experience with frequent travels and continued
residence in Europe. For a while he maintained a department in _Harper's
Magazine_, where he gave expression to his views on literature and the
dramatic art, and for a short period returned to the editorial life
in conducting _The Cosmopolitan_; later he entered also the field of
lecturing, and thus further extended the range of his observation. For many
years, Mr. Howells was the writer of "Editor's Easy Chair" in Harper's
Magazine. In 1909 he was made president of the American Academy of Arts and
Letters. Mr. Howells's death occurred May 11, 1920.

This in fine is the most summary statement of his career in
literature,--that he has been a keen and sympathetic observer of life, and
has caught its character, not like a reporter going about with a kodak and
snapping it aimlessly at any conspicuous object, but like an alert artist
who goes back to his studio after a walk and sets down his comments on what
he has seen in quick, accurate sketches, now and then resolving numberless
undrawn sketches into some one comprehensive and beautiful picture.



THE SEQUENCE OF MR. HOWELLS'S BOOKS.


Mr. Howells is the author of nearly seventy books, from which the following
are selected as best representing his work in various fields and at various
periods.

Venetian Life. Travel and description. 1867.

Their Wedding Journey. Novel. 1871.

Italian Journeys. Travel and description. 1872.

Suburban Sketches. 1872.

Poems. 1873 and 1895.

A Chance Acquaintance. Novel. 1873.

A Foregone Conclusion. Novel. 1874.

A Counterfeit Presentment. Comedy. 1877.

The Lady of the Aroostook. Novel. 1879.

The Undiscovered Country. Novel. 1880.

A Fearful Responsibility, and Other Stories. 1881.

A Modern Instance. Novel. 1881.

The Rise of Silas Lapham. Novel. 1884.

Tuscan Cities. Travel and description. 1885.

April Hopes. Novel. 1887.

A Hazard of New Fortunes. Novel. 1889.

The Sleeping Car, and Other Farces. 1889.

A Boy's Town. Reminiscences. 1890.

Criticism and Fiction. Essays. 1891.

My Literary Passions. Essays. 1895.

Stops of Various Quills. Poems. 1895.

Literary Friends and Acquaintances. Reminiscences, 1900.

Heroines of Fiction. Criticism. 1901.

The Kentons. Novel. 1902.

Literature and Life. Criticism. 1902.

London Films. Travel and Description. 1905.



A MODERN INSTANCE.


I.

The village stood on a wide plain, and around it rose the mountains. They
were green to their tops in summer, and in winter white through their
serried pines and drifting mists, but at every season serious and
beautiful, furrowed with hollow shadows, and taking the light on masses
and stretches of iron-gray crag. The river swam through the plain in long
curves, and slipped away at last through an unseen pass to the southward,
tracing a score of miles in its course over a space that measured but three
or four. The plain was very fertile, and its features, if few and of purely
utilitarian beauty, had a rich luxuriance, and there was a tropical riot of
vegetation when the sun of July beat on those northern fields. They waved
with corn and oats to the feet of the mountains, and the potatoes covered
a vast acreage with the lines of their intense, coarse green; the meadows
were deep with English grass to the banks of the river, that, doubling and
returning upon itself, still marked its way with a dense fringe of alders
and white birches.

But winter was full half the year. The snow began at Thanksgiving, and
fell snow upon snow till Fast Day, thawing between the storms, and packing
harder and harder against the break-up in the spring, when it covered the
ground in solid levels three feet high, and lay heaped in drifts, that
defied the sun far into May. When it did not snow, the weather was
keenly clear, and commonly very still. Then the landscape at noon had a
stereoscopic glister under the high sun that burned in a heaven without a
cloud, and at setting stained the sky and the white waste with freezing
pink and violet. On such days the farmers and lumbermen came in to the
village stores, and made a stiff and feeble stir about their doorways, and
the school children gave the street a little life and color, as they went
to and from the Academy in their red and blue woollens. Four times a day
the mill, the shrill wheeze of whose saws had become part of the habitual
silence, blew its whistle for the hands to begin and leave off work,
in blasts that seemed to shatter themselves against the thin air. But
otherwise an arctic quiet prevailed.

Behind the black boles of the elms that swept the vista of the street with
the fine gray tracery of their boughs, stood the houses, deep-sunken in the
accumulating drifts, through which each householder kept a path cut from
his doorway to the road, white and clean as if hewn out of marble. Some
cross streets straggled away east and west with the poorer dwellings; but
this, that followed the northward and southward reach of the plain, was the
main thoroughfare, and had its own impressiveness, with those square white
houses which they build so large in Northern New England. They were all
kept in scrupulous repair, though here and there the frost and thaw of many
winters had heaved a fence out of plumb, and threatened the poise of the
monumental urns of painted pine on the gate-posts. They had dark-green
blinds, of a color harmonious with that of the funereal evergreens in their
dooryards; and they themselves had taken the tone of the snowy landscape,
as if by the operation of some such law as blanches the fur-bearing animals
of the North. They seemed proper to its desolation, while some houses of
more modern taste, painted to a warmer tone, looked, with their mansard
roofs and jig-sawed piazzas and balconies, intrusive and alien.

At one end of the street stood the Academy, with its classic façade and its
belfry; midway was the hotel, with the stores, the printing-office, and the
churches; and at the other extreme, one of the square white mansions stood
advanced from the rank of the rest, at the top of a deep-plunging valley,
defining itself against the mountain beyond so sharply that it seemed as if
cut out of its dark, wooded side. It was from the gate before this house,
distinct in the pink light which the sunset had left, that, on a Saturday
evening in February, a cutter, gay with red-lined robes, dashed away, and
came musically clashing down the street under the naked elms. For the
women who sat with their work at the windows on either side of the way,
hesitating whether to light their lamps, and drawing nearer and nearer to
the dead-line of the outer cold for the latest glimmer of the day, the
passage of this ill-timed vehicle was a vexation little short of grievous.
Every movement on the street was precious to them, and, with all the
keenness of their starved curiosity, these captives of the winter could not
make out the people in the cutter. Afterward it was a mortification to them
that they should not have thought at once of Bartley Hubbard and Marcia
Gaylord. They had seen him go up toward Squire Gaylord's house half an hour
before, and they now blamed themselves for not reflecting that of course he
was going to take Marcia over to the church sociable at Lower Equity.
Their identity being established, other little proofs of it reproached the
inquirers; but these perturbed spirits were at peace, and the lamps were
out in the houses (where the smell of rats in the wainscot and of potatoes
in the cellar strengthened with the growing night), when Bartley and Marcia
drove back through the moonlit silence to her father's door. Here, too, the
windows were all dark, except for the light that sparely glimmered through
the parlor blinds; and the young man slackened the pace of his horse, as if
to still the bells, some distance away from the gate.

The girl took the hand he offered her when he dismounted at the gate, and,
as she jumped from the cutter, "Won't you come in?" she asked.

"I guess I can blanket my horse and stand him under the wood-shed,"
answered the young man, going around to the animal's head and leading him
away.

When he returned to the door the girl opened it, as if she had been
listening for his step; and she now stood holding it ajar for him to enter,
and throwing the light upon the threshold from the lamp, which she lifted
high in the other hand. The action brought her figure in relief, and
revealed the outline of her bust and shoulders, while the lamp flooded with
light the face she turned to him, and again averted for a moment, as if
startled at some noise behind her. She thus showed a smooth, low forehead,
lips and cheeks deeply red, a softly rounded chin touched with a faint
dimple, and in turn a nose short and aquiline; her eyes were dark, and her
dusky hair flowed crinkling above her fine black brows, and vanished down
the curve of a lovely neck. There was a peculiar charm in the form of her
upper lip: it was exquisitely arched, and at the corners it projected
a little over the lower lip, so that when she smiled it gave a piquant
sweetness to her mouth, with a certain demure innocence that qualified the
Roman pride of her profile. For the rest, her beauty was of the kind that
coming years would only ripen and enrich; at thirty she would be even
handsomer than at twenty, and be all the more southern in her type for the
paling of that northern, color in her cheeks. The young man who looked up
at her from the doorstep had a yellow mustache, shadowing either side of
his lip with a broad sweep, like a bird's wing; his chin, deep-cut below
his mouth, failed to come strenuously forward; his cheeks were filled to
an oval contour, and his face had otherwise the regularity common to
Americans; his eyes, a clouded gray, heavy-lidded and long-lashed, were his
most striking feature, and he gave her beauty a deliberate look from them
as he lightly stamped the snow from his feet, and pulled the seal-skin
gloves from his long hands.

"Come in," she whispered, coloring with pleasure under his gaze; and she
made haste to shut the door after him, with a luxurious impatience of the
cold. She led the way into the room from which she had come, and set down
the lamp on the corner of the piano, while he slipped off his overcoat and
swung it over the end of the sofa. They drew up chairs to the stove,
in which the smouldering fire, revived by the opened draft, roared and
snapped. It was midnight, as the sharp strokes of a wooden clock declared
from the kitchen, and they were alone together, and all the other inmates
of the house were asleep. The situation, scarcely conceivable to another
civilization, is so common in ours, where youth commands its fate and
trusts solely to itself, that it may be said to be characteristic of the
New England civilization wherever it keeps its simplicity. It was not
stolen or clandestine; it would have interested every one, but would have
shocked no one in the village if the whole village had known it; all that a
girl's parents ordinarily exacted was that they should not be waked up.

"Ugh!" said the girl. "It seems as if I never should get warm." She leaned
forward, and stretched her hands toward the stove, and he presently rose
from the rocking-chair in which he sat, somewhat lower than she, and lifted
her sack to throw it over her shoulders. But he put it down and took up his
overcoat.

"Allow my coat the pleasure," he said, with the ease of a man who is not
too far lost to be really flattering.

"Much obliged to the coat," she replied, shrugging herself into it and
pulling the collar close about her throat. "I wonder you didn't put it on
the sorrel. You could have tied the sleeves around her neck."

"Shall I tie them around yours?" He leaned forward from the low
rocking-chair into which he had sunk again, and made a feint at what he had
proposed.

But she drew back with a gay "No!" and added: "Some day, father says, that
sorrel will be the death of us. He says it's a bad color for a horse.
They're always ugly, and when they get heated they're crazy."

"You never seem to be very much frightened when you're riding after the
sorrel," said Bartley.

"Oh, I've great faith in your driving."

"Thanks. But I don't believe in this notion about a horse being vicious
because he's of a certain color. If your father didn't believe in it, I
should call it a superstition; but the Squire has no superstitions."

"I don't know about that," said the girl. "I don't think he likes to see
the new moon over his left shoulder."

"I beg his pardon, then," returned Bartley. "I ought to have said
religions: the Squire has no religions." The young fellow had a rich,
caressing voice, and a securely winning manner which comes from the habit
of easily pleasing; in this charming tone, and with this delightful
insinuation, he often said things that hurt; but with such a humorous
glance from his softly shaded eyes that people felt in some sort flattered
at being taken into the joke, even while they winced under it. The girl
seemed to wince, as if, in spite of her familiarity with the fact, it
wounded her to have her father's scepticism recognized just then. She said
nothing, and he added, "I remember we used to think that a redheaded
boy was worse-tempered on account of his hair. But I don't believe the
sorrel-tops, as we called them, were any more fiery than the rest of us."

Marcia did not answer at once, and then she said, with the vagueness of one
not greatly interested by the subject, "You've got a sorrel-top in your
office that's fiery enough, if she's anything like what she used to be when
she went to school."

"Hannah Morrison?"

"Yes."

"Oh, she isn't so bad. She's pretty lively, but she's very eager to learn
the business, and I guess we shall get along. I think she wants to please
me."

"_Does_ she! But she must be going on seventeen now."

"I dare say," answered the young man, carelessly, but with perfect
intelligence. "She's good-looking in her way, too."

"Oh! Then you admire red hair?"

He perceived the anxiety that the girl's pride could not keep out of her
tone, but he answered indifferently, "I'm a little too near that color
myself. I hear that red hair's coming into fashion, but I guess it's
natural I should prefer black."

She leaned back in her chair, and crushed the velvet collar of his coat
under her neck in lifting her head to stare at the high-hung mezzotints and
family photographs on the walls, while a flattered smile parted her lips,
and there was a little thrill of joy in her voice. "I presume we must be a
good deal behind the age in everything at Equity."

"Well, you know my opinion of Equity," returned the young man. "If I didn't
have you here to free my mind to once in a while, I don't know what I
should do."

She was so proud to be in the secret of his discontent with the narrow
world of Equity that she tempted him to disparage it further by pretending
to identify herself with it. "I don't see why you abuse Equity to me. I Ve
never been anywhere else, except those two winters at school. You'd better
look out: I might expose you," she threatened, fondly.

"I'm not afraid. Those two winters make a great difference. You saw girls
from other places,--from Augusta, and Bangor, and Bath."

"Well, I couldn't see how they were so very different from Equity girls."

"I dare say they couldn't, either, if they judged from you."

She leaned forward again, and begged for more flattery from him with her
happy eyes. "Why, what _does_ make me so different from all the rest? I
should really like to know."

"Oh, you don't expect me to tell you to your face!"

"Yes, to my face! I don't believe it's anything complimentary."

"No, it's nothing that you deserve any credit for."

"Pshaw!" cried the girl. "I know you're only talking to make fun of me. How
do I know but you make fun of me to other girls, just as you do of them to
me? Everybody says you're sarcastic."

"Have I ever been sarcastic with you?"

"You know I wouldn't stand it."

He made no reply, but she admired the ease with which he now turned from
her, and took one book after another from the table at his elbow, saying
some words of ridicule about each. It gave her a still deeper sense of his
intellectual command when he finally discriminated, and began to read out a
poem with studied elocutionary effects. He read in a low tone, but at last
some responsive noises came from the room overhead; he closed the book, and
threw himself into an attitude of deprecation, with his eyes cast up to the
ceiling.

"Chicago," he said, laying the book on the table and taking his knee
between his hands, while he dazzled her by speaking from the abstraction
of one who has carried on a train of thought quite different from that on
which he seemed to be intent,--"Chicago is the place for me. I don't think
I can stand Equity much longer. You know that chum of mine I told you
about; he's written to me to come out there and go into the law with him at
once."

"Why don't you go?" the girl forced herself to ask.

"Oh, I'm not ready yet. Should you write to me if I went to Chicago?"

"I don't think you'd find my letters very interesting. You wouldn't want
any news from Equity."

"Your letters wouldn't be interesting if you gave me the Equity news; but
they would if you left it out. Then you'd have to write about yourself."

"Oh, I don't think that would interest anybody."

"Well, I feel almost like going out to Chicago to see."

"But I haven't promised to write yet," said the girl, laughing for joy in
his humor.

"I shall have to stay in Equity till you do, then. Better promise at once."

"Wouldn't that be too much like marrying a man to get rid of him?"

"I don't think that's always such a bad plan--for the man." He waited for
her to speak; but she had gone the length of her tether in this direction.
"Byron says,--

  'Man's love is of man's life a thing apart,--
  'Tis woman's whole existence.'

Do you believe that?" He dwelt upon her with his tree look, in the happy
embarrassment with which she let her head droop.

"I don't know," she murmured. "I don't know anything about a man's life."

"It was the woman's I was asking about."

"I don't think I'm competent to answer."

"Well, I'll tell you, then. I think Byron was mistaken. My experience is,
that, when a man is in love, there's nothing else of him. That's the reason
I've kept out of it altogether of late years. My advice is, don't fall
in love: it takes too much time." They both laughed at this. "But about
corresponding, now; you haven't said whether you would write to me, or not.
Will you?"

"Can't you wait and see?" she asked, slanting a look at him, which she
could not keep from being fond.

"No, no. Unless you wrote to me I couldn't go to Chicago."

"Perhaps I ought to promise, then, at once."

"You mean that you wish me to go."

"You said that you were going. You oughtn't to let anything stand in the
way of your doing the best you can for yourself."

"But you would miss me a little, wouldn't you? You would try to miss me,
now and then?"

"Oh, you are here pretty often. I don't think I should have much difficulty
in missing you."

"Thanks, thanks! I can go with a light heart, now. Good by." He made a
pretence of rising.

"What! Are you going at once?"

"Yes, this very night,--or to-morrow. Or no, I can't go to-morrow. There's
something I was going to do to-morrow."

"Perhaps go to church."

"Oh, that of course. But it was in the afternoon. Stop! I have it! I want
you to go sleigh-riding with me in the afternoon."

"I don't know about that," Marcia began.

"But I do," said the young man. "Hold on: I'll put my request in writing."
He opened her portfolio, which lay on the table. "What elegant stationery!
May I use some of this elegant stationery? The letter is to a lady,--to
open a correspondence. May I?" She laughed her assent. "How ought I to
begin? Dearest Miss Marcia, or just Dear Marcia: which is better?"

"You had better not put either--"

"But I must. You're one or the other, you know. You're dear--to your
family,--and you're Marcia: you can't deny it. The only question is whether
you're the dearest of all the Miss Marcias. I may be mistaken, you know.
We'll err on the safe side: Dear Marcia:" He wrote it down. "That looks
well, and it reads well. It looks very natural, and it reads like
poetry,--blank verse; there's no rhyme for it that I can remember. Dear
Marcia: Will you go sleigh-riding with me to-morrow afternoon, at two
o'clock sharp? Yours--yours? sincerely, or cordially, or affectionately, or
what? The 'dear Marcia' seems to call for something out of the common.
I think it had better be affectionately." He suggested it with ironical
gravity.

"And _I_ think it had better be 'truly,'" protested the girl.

"'Truly' it shall be, then. Your word is law,--statute in such case made
and provided." He wrote, "With unutterable devotion, yours truly, Bartley
J. Hubbard," and read it aloud.

She leaned forward, and lightly caught it away from him, and made a feint
of tearing it. He seized her hands. "Mr. Hubbard!" she cried, in undertone.
"Let me go, please."

"On two conditions,--promise not to tear up my letter, and promise to
answer it in writing."

She hesitated long, letting him hold her wrists. At last she said, "Well,"
and he released her wrists, on whose whiteness his clasp left red circles.
She wrote a single word on the paper, and pushed it across the table to
him. He rose with it, and went around to her side.

"This is very nice. But you haven't spelled it correctly. Anybody would say
this was No, to look at it; and you meant to write Yes. Take the pencil in
your hand, Miss Gaylord, and I will steady your trembling nerves, so that
you can form the characters. Stop! At the slightest resistance on your
part, I will call out and alarm the house; or I will--." He put the pencil
into her fingers, and took her soft fist into his, and changed the word,
while she submitted, helpless with her smothered laughter. "Now the
address. Dear--"

"No, no!" she protested.

"Yes, yes! Dear Mr. Hubbard. There, that will do. Now the signature.
Yours--"

"I _won't_ write that. I won't, indeed!"

"Oh, yes, you will. You only think you won't. Yours gratefully, Marcia
Gaylord. That's right. The Gaylord is not very legible, on account of a
slight tremor in the writer's arm, resulting from a constrained posture,
perhaps. Thanks, Miss Gaylord. I will be here promptly at the hour
indicated--"

The noises renewed themselves overhead,--some one seemed to be moving
about. Hubbard laid his hand on that of the girl, still resting on the
table, and grasped it in burlesque alarm; she could scarcely stifle her
mirth. He released her hand, and, reaching his chair with a theatrical
stride, sat there cowering till the noises ceased. Then he began to speak
soberly, in a low voice. He spoke of himself; but in application of a
lecture which they had lately heard, so that he seemed to be speaking of
the lecture. It was on the formation of character, and he told of the
processes by which he had formed his own character. They appeared very
wonderful to her, and she marvelled at the ease with which he dismissed the
frivolity of his recent mood, and was now all seriousness. When he came to
speak of the influence of others upon him, she almost trembled with the
intensity of her interest. "But of all the women I have known, Marcia," he
said, "I believe you have had the strongest influence upon me. I believe
you could make me do anything; but you have always influenced me for good;
your influence upon me has been ennobling and elevating."

She wished to refuse his praise; but her heart throbbed for bliss and pride
in it; her voice dissolved on her lips. They sat in silence; and he took in
his the hand that she let hang over the side of her chair. The lamp began
to burn low, and she found words to say, "I had better get another," but
she did not move.

"No, don't," he said; "I must be going, too. Look at the wick, there,
Marcia; it scarcely reaches the oil. In a little while it will not reach
it, and the flame will die out. That is the way the ambition to be good and
great will die out of me, when my life no longer draws its inspiration from
your influence."

This figure took her imagination; it seemed to her very beautiful; and his
praise humbled her more and more.

"Good night," he said, in a low, sad voice. He gave her hand a last
pressure, and rose to put on his coat. Her admiration of his words, her
happiness in his flattery, filled her brain like wine. She moved dizzily as
she took up the lamp to light him to the door. "I have tired you," he said,
tenderly, and he passed his hand around her to sustain the elbow of the arm
with which she held the lamp; she wished to resist, but she could not try.

At the door he bent down his head and kissed her. "Good night,
dear--friend."

"Good night," she panted; and after the door had closed upon him, she
stooped and kissed the knob on which his hand had rested.

As she turned, she started to see her father coming down the stairs with a
candle in his hand. He had his black cravat tied around his throat, but no
collar; otherwise, he had on the rusty black clothes in which he ordinarily
went about his affairs,--the cassimere pantaloons, the satin vest, and the
dress-coat which old-fashioned country lawyers still wore ten years ago, in
preference to a frock or sack. He stopped on one of the lower steps, and
looked sharply down into her uplifted face, and, as they stood confronted,
their consanguinity came out in vivid resemblances and contrasts; his high,
hawk-like profile was translated into the fine aquiline outline of hers;
the harsh rings of black hair, now grizzled with age, which clustered
tightly over his head, except where they had retreated from his deeply
seamed and wrinkled forehead, were the crinkled flow above her smooth white
brow; and the line of the bristly tufts that overhung his eyes was the same
as that of the low arches above hers. Her complexion was from her mother;
his skin was dusky yellow; but they had the same mouth, and hers showed how
sweet his mouth must have been in his youth. His eyes, deep sunk in their
cavernous sockets, had rekindled their dark fires in hers; his whole
visage, softened to her sex and girlish years, looked up at him in his
daughter's face.

"Why, father! Did we wake you?"

"No. I hadn't been asleep at all. I was coming down to read. But it's time
you were in bed, Marcia."

"Yes, I'm going, now. There's a good fire in the parlor stove."

The old man descended the remaining steps, but turned at the parlor door,
and looked again at his daughter with a glance that arrested her, with her
foot on the lowest stair.

"Marcia," he asked, grimly, "are you engaged to Bartley Hubbard?"

The blood flashed up from her heart into her face like fire, and then, as
suddenly, fell back again, and left her white. She let her head droop and
turn, till her eyes were wholly averted from him, and she did not speak. He
closed the door behind him, and she went upstairs to her own room; in her
shame, she seemed to herself to crawl thither, with her father's glance
burning upon her.



II.


Bartley Hubbard drove his sorrel colt back to the hotel stable through the
moonlight, and woke up the hostler, asleep behind the counter, on a bunk
covered with buffalo-robes. The half-grown boy did not wake easily; he
conceived of the affair as a joke, and bade Bartley quit his fooling, till
the young man took him by his collar, and stood him on his feet. Then he
fumbled about the button of the lamp, turned low and smelling rankly, and
lit his lantern, which contributed a rival stench to the choking air. He
kicked together the embers that smouldered on the hearth of the Franklin
stove, sitting down before it for his greater convenience, and, having put
a fresh pine-root on the fire, fell into a doze, with his lantern in his
hand. "Look here, young man!" said Bartley, shaking him by the shoulder,
"you had better go out and put that colt up, and leave this sleeping before
the fire to me."

"Guess the colt can wait awhile," grumbled the boy; but he went out,
all the same, and Bartley, looking through the window, saw his lantern
wavering, a yellow blot in the white moonshine, toward the stable. He sat
down in the hostler's chair, and, in his turn, kicked the pine-root with
the heel of his shoe, and looked about the room. He had had, as he would
have said, a grand good time; but it had left him hungry, and the table in
the middle of the room, with the chairs huddled around it, was suggestive,
though he knew that it had been barrenly put there for the convenience of
the landlord's friends, who came every night to play whist with him, and
that nothing to eat or drink had ever been set out on it to interrupt the
austere interest of the game. It was long since there had been anything
on the shelves behind the counter more cheerful than corn-balls and fancy
crackers for the children of the summer boarders; these dainties being out
of season, the jars now stood there empty. The young man waited in a hungry
reverie, in which it appeared to him that he was undergoing unmerited
suffering, till the stable-boy came back, now wide awake, and disposed to
let the house share his vigils, as he stamped over the floor in his heavy
boots.

"Andy," said Bartley, in a pathetic tone of injury, "can't you scare me up
something to eat?"

"There aint anything in the buttery but meat-pie," said the boy.

He meant mince-pie, as Hubbard knew, and not a pasty of meat; and the
hungry man hesitated. "Well, fetch it," he said, finally. "I guess we can
warm it up a little by the coals here."

He had not been so long out of college but the idea of this irregular
supper, when he had once formed it, began to have its fascination. He took
up the broad fire-shovel, and, by the time the boy had shuffled to and from
the pantry beyond the dining-room, Bartley had cleaned the shovel with a
piece of newspaper and was already heating it by the embers which he had
raked out from under the pine-root. The boy silently transferred the
half-pie he had brought from its plate to the shovel. He pulled up a chair
and sat down to watch it. The pie began to steam and send out a savory
odor; he himself, in thawing, emitted a stronger and stronger smell of
stable. He was not without his disdain for the palate which must have its
mince-pie warm at midnight,--nor without his respect for it, either. This
fastidious taste must be part of the splendor which showed itself in Mr.
Hubbard's city-cut clothes, and in his neck-scarfs and the perfection of
his finger-nails and mustache. The boy had felt the original impression of
these facts deepened rather than effaced by custom; they were for every
day, and not, as he had at first conjectured, for some great occasion only.

"You don't suppose, Andy, there is such a thing as cold tea or coffee
anywhere, that we could warm up?" asked Bartley, gazing thoughtfully at the
pie.

The boy shook his head. "Get you some milk," he said; and, after he had let
the dispiriting suggestion sink into the other's mind, he added, "or some
water."

"Oh, bring on the milk," groaned Bartley, but with the relief that a choice
of evils affords. The boy stumped away for it, and when he came back the
young man had got his pie on the plate again, and had drawn his chair up to
the table. "Thanks," he said, with his mouth full, as the boy set down the
goblet of milk. Andy pulled his chair round so as to get an unrestricted
view of a man who ate his pie with his fork as easily as another would
with a knife. "That sister of yours is a smart girl," the young man added,
making deliberate progress with the pie.

The boy made an inarticulate sound of satisfaction, and resolved in his
heart to tell her what Mr. Hubbard had said.

"She's as smart as time," continued Bartley.

This was something concrete. The boy knew he should remember that
comparison. "Bring you anything else?" he asked, admiring the young man's
skill in getting the last flakes of the crust on his fork. The pie had now
vanished.

"Why, there isn't anything else, is there?" Bartley demanded, with the
plaintive dismay of a man who fears he has flung away his hunger upon one
dish when he might have had something better.

"Cheese," replied the boy.

"Oh!" said Bartley. He reflected awhile. "I suppose I could toast a piece
on this fork. But there isn't any more milk."

The boy took away the plate and goblet, and brought them again replenished.

Bartley contrived to get the cheese on his fork and rest it against one of
the andirons so that it would not fall into the ashes. When it was done, he
ate it as he had eaten the pie, without offering to share his feast with
the boy. "There'" he said. "Yes, Andy, if she keeps on as she's been doing,
she won't have any trouble. She's a bright girl." He stretched his legs
before the fire again, and presently yawned.

"Want your lamp, Mr. Hubbard?" asked the boy.

"Well, yes, Andy," the young man consented. "I suppose I may as well go to
bed."

But when the boy brought his lamp, he still remained with outstretched legs
in front of the fire. Speaking of Hannah Morrison made him think of Marcia
again, and of the way in which she had spoken of the girl. He lolled his
head on one side in such comfort as a young man finds in the conviction
that a pretty girl is not only fond of him, but is instantly jealous of any
other girl whose name is mentioned. He smiled at the flame in his reverie,
and the boy examined, with clandestine minuteness, the set and pattern of
his trousers, with glances of reference and comparison to his own.

There were many things about his relations with Marcia Gaylord which were
calculated to give Bartley satisfaction. She was, without question, the
prettiest girl in the place, and she had more style than any other girl
began to have. He liked to go into a room with Marcia Gaylord; it was some
pleasure. Marcia was a lady; she had a good education; she had been away
two years at school; and, when she came back at the end of the second
winter, he knew that she had fallen in love with him at sight. He believed
that he could time it to a second. He remembered how he had looked up at
her as he passed, and she had reddened, and tried to turn away from the
window as if she had not seen him. Bartley was still free as air; but if he
could once make up his mind to settle down in a hole like Equity, he
could have her by turning his hand. Of course she had her drawbacks, like
everybody. She was proud, and she would be jealous; but, with all her pride
and her distance, she had let him see that she liked him; and with not a
word on his part that any one could hold him to.

"Hollo!" he cried, with a suddenness that startled the boy, who had
finished his meditation upon Bartley's trousers, and was now deeply
dwelling on his boots. "Do you like 'em? See what sort of a shine you can
give 'em for Sunday-go-to-meeting to-morrow morning." He put out his hand
and laid hold of the boy's head, passing his fingers through the thick red
hair. "Sorrel-top!" he said, with a grin of agreeable reminiscence. "They
emptied all the freckles they had left into your face,--didn't they, Andy?"

This free, joking way of Bartley's was one of the things that made him
popular; he passed the time of day, and was give and take right along,
as his admirers expressed it, from the first, in a community where his
smartness had that honor which gives us more smart men to the square mile
than any other country in the world. The fact of his smartness had been
affirmed and established in the strongest manner by the authorities of the
college at which he was graduated, in answer to the reference he made to
them when negotiating with the committee in charge for the place he now
held as editor of the Equity Free Press. The faculty spoke of the solidity
and variety of his acquirements, and the distinction with which he had
acquitted himself in every branch of study' he had undertaken. They added
that he deserved the greater credit because his early disadvantages as an
orphan, dependent on his own exertions for a livelihood, had been so great
that he had entered college with difficulty, and with heavy conditions.
This turned the scale with a committee who had all been poor boys
themselves, and justly feared the encroachments of hereditary aristocracy.
They perhaps had their misgivings when the young man, in his well-blacked
boots, his gray trousers neatly fitting over them, and his diagonal coat
buttoned high with one button, stood before them with his thumbs in his
waistcoat pockets, and looked down over his mustache at the floor with
sentiments concerning their wisdom which they could not explore; they must
have resented the fashionable keeping of everything about him, for Bartley
wore his one suit as if it were but one of many; but when they understood
that he had come by everything through his own unaided smartness, they
could no longer hesitate: One, indeed, still felt it a duty to call
attention to the fact that the college authorities said nothing of the
young man's moral characteristics in a letter dwelling so largely upon his
intellectual qualifications. The others referred this point by a silent
look to Squire Gaylord.

"I don't know;" said the Squire, "as I ever heard that a great deal of
morality was required by a newspaper editor." The rest laughed at the joke,
and the Squire continued: "But I guess if he worked his own way through
college, as they say, that he haint had time to be up to a great deal of
mischief. You know it's for idle hands that the Devil provides, doctor."

"That's true, as far as it goes," said the doctor.

"But it isn't the whole truth. The Devil provides for some busy hands,
too."

"There's a good deal of sense in that," the Squire admitted. "The worst
scamps I ever knew were active fellows. Still, industry is in a man's
favor. If the faculty knew anything against this young man they would
have given us a hint of it. I guess we had better take him; we sha'n't do
better. Is it a vote?"

The good opinion of Bartley's smartness which Squire Gaylord had formed was
confirmed some months later by the development of the fact that the young
man did not regard his management of the Equity Free Press as a final
vocation. The story went that he lounged into the lawyer's office one
Saturday afternoon in October, and asked him to let him take his Blackstone
into the woods with him. He came back with it a few hours later.

"Well, sir," said the attorney, sardonically, "how much Blackstone have you
read?"

"About forty pages," answered the young man, dropping into one of the empty
chairs, and hanging his leg over the arm.

The lawyer smiled, and, opening the book, asked half a dozen questions at
random. Bartley answered without changing his indifferent countenance, or
the careless posture he had fallen into. A sharper and longer examination
followed; the very language seemed to have been unbrokenly transferred to
his mind, and he often gave the author's words as well as his ideas.

"Ever looked at this before?" asked the lawyer, with a keen glance at him
over his spectacles.

"No," said Bartley, gaping as if bored, and further relieving his weariness
by stretching. He was without deference for any presence; and the old
lawyer did not dislike him for this: he had no deference himself.

"You think of studying law?" he asked, after a pause.

"That's what I came to ask you about," said Bartley, swinging his leg.

The elder recurred to his book, and put some more questions. Then he said,
"Do you want to study with me?"

"That's about the size of it."

He shut the book, and pushed it on the table toward the young man. "Go
ahead. You'll get along--if you don't get along too easily."

It was in the spring after this that Marcia returned home from her last
term at boarding-school, and first saw him.



III.


Bartley woke on Sunday morning with the regrets that a supper of mince-pie
and toasted cheese is apt to bring. He woke from a bad dream, and found
that he had a dull headache. A cup of coffee relieved his pain, but it left
him listless, and with a longing for sympathy which he experienced in any
mental or physical discomfort. The frankness with which he then appealed
for compassion was one of the things that made people like him; he flung
himself upon the pity of the first he met. It might be some one to whom he
had said a cutting or mortifying thing at their last encounter, but Bartley
did not mind that; what he desired was commiseration, and he confidingly
ignored the past in a trust that had rarely been abused. If his sarcasm
proved that he was quick and smart, his recourse to those who had suffered
from it proved that he did not mean anything by what he said; it showed
that he was a man of warm feelings, and that his heart was in the right
place.

Bartley deplored his disagreeable sensations to the other boarders at
breakfast, and affectionately excused himself to them for not going to
church, when they turned into the office, and gathered there before the
Franklin stove, sensible of the day in freshly shaven chins and newly
blacked boots. The habit of church-going was so strong and universal in
Equity that even strangers stopping at the hotel found themselves the
object of a sort of hospitable competition with the members of the
different denominations, who took it for granted that they would wish to
go somewhere, and only suffered them a choice between sects. There was no
intolerance in their offer of pews, but merely a profound expectation, and
one might continue to choose his place of worship Sabbath after Sabbath
without offence. This was Bartley's custom, and it had worked to his favor
rather than his disadvantage: for in the rather chaotic liberality into
which religious sentiment had fallen in Equity, it was tacitly conceded
that the editor of a paper devoted to the interests of the whole town ought
not to be of fixed theological opinions.

Religion there had largely ceased to be a fact of spiritual experience,
and the visible church flourished on condition of providing for the social
needs of the community. It was practically held that the salvation of
one's soul must not be made too depressing, or the young people would have
nothing to do with it. Professors of the sternest creeds temporized with
sinners, and did what might be done to win them to heaven by helping them
to have a good time here. The church embraced and included the world. It no
longer frowned even upon social dancing,--a transgression once so heinous
in its eyes; it opened its doors to popular lectures, and encouraged
secular music in its basements, where, during the winter, oyster suppers
were given in aid of good objects. The Sunday school was made particularly
attractive, both to the children and the young men and girls who taught
them. Not only at Thanksgiving, but at Christmas, and latterly even at
Easter, there were special observances, which the enterprising spirits
having the welfare of the church at heart tried to make significant and
agreeable to all, and promotive of good feeling. Christenings and marriages
in the church were encouraged, and elaborately celebrated; death alone,
though treated with cut-flowers in emblematic devices, refused to lend
itself to the cheerful intentions of those who were struggling to render
the idea of another and a better world less repulsive. In contrast with
the relaxation and uncertainty of their doctrinal aim, the rude and bold
infidelity of old Squire Gaylord had the greater affinity with the mood of
the Puritanism they had outgrown. But Bartley Hubbard liked the religious
situation well enough. He took a leading part in the entertainments, and
did something to impart to them a literary cast, as in the series of
readings from the poets which he gave, the first winter, for the benefit of
each church in turn. At these lectures he commended himself to the sober
elders, who were troubled by the levity of his behavior with young people
on other occasions, by asking one of the ministers to open the exercises
with prayer, and another, at the close, to invoke the Divine blessing;
there was no especial relevancy in this, but it pleased. He kept himself,
from the beginning, pretty constantly in the popular eye. He was a speaker
at all public meetings, where his declamation was admired; and at private
parties, where the congealed particles of village society were united in
a frozen mass, he was the first to break the ice, and set the angular
fragments grating and grinding upon one another.

He now went to his room, and opened his desk with some vague purpose
of bringing up the arrears of his correspondence. Formerly, before his
interest in the newspaper had lapsed at all, he used to give his Sunday
leisure to making selections and writing paragraphs for it; but he now
let the pile of exchanges lie unopened on his desk, and began to rummage
through the letters scattered about in it. They were mostly from young
ladies with whom he had corresponded, and some of them enclosed the
photographs of the writers, doing their best to look as they hoped he might
think they looked. They were not love-letters, but were of that sort
which the laxness of our social life invites young people, who have met
pleasantly, to exchange as long as they like, without explicit intentions
on either side; they commit the writers to nothing; they are commonly
without result, except in wasting time which is hardly worth saving. Every
one who has lived the American life must have produced them in great
numbers. While youth lasts, they afford an excitement whose charm is hard
to realize afterward.

Bartley's correspondents were young ladies of his college town, where
he had first begun to see something of social life in days which he now
recognized as those of his green youth. They were not so very far removed
in point of time; but the experience of a larger world in the vacation he
had spent with a Boston student had relegated them to a moral remoteness
that could not readily be measured. His friend was the son of a family who
had diverted him from the natural destiny of a Boston man at Harvard, and
sent him elsewhere for sectarian reasons. They were rich people, devout
in their way, and benevolent, after a fashion of their own; and their son
always brought home with him, for the holidays and other short vacations,
some fellow-student accounted worthy of their hospitality through his
religious intentions or his intellectual promise. These guests were
indicated to the young man by one of the faculty, and he accepted their
companionship for the time with what perfunctory civility he could muster.
He and Bartley had amused themselves very well during that vacation. The
Hallecks were not fashionable people, but they lived wealthily: they had
a coachman and an inside man (whom Bartley at first treated with a
consideration, which it afterward mortified him to think of); their house
was richly furnished with cushioned seats, dense carpets, and heavy
curtains; and they were visited by other people of their denomination,
and of a like abundance. Some of these were infected with the prevailing
culture of the city, and the young ladies especially dressed in a style and
let fall ideas that filled the soul of the country student with wonder and
worship. He heard a great deal of talk that he did not understand; but
he eagerly treasured every impression, and pieced it out, by question
or furtive observation, into an image often shrewdly true, and often
grotesquely untrue, to the conditions into which he had been dropped. He
civilized himself as rapidly as his light permitted. There was a great
deal of church-going; but he and young Halleck went also to lectures and
concerts; they even went to the opera, and Bartley, with the privity of his
friend, went to the theatre. Halleck said that he did not think there was
much harm in a play; but that his people stayed away for the sake of the
example,--a reason that certainly need not hold with Bartley.

At the end of the vacation he returned to college, leaving his measure with
Halleck's tailor, and his heart with all the splendors and elegances of the
town. He found the ceilings very low and the fashions much belated in the
village; but he reconciled himself as well as he could. The real stress
came when he left college and the question of doing something for himself
pressed upon him. He intended to study law, but he must meantime earn his
living. It had been his fortune to be left, when very young, not only an
orphan, but an extremely pretty child, with an exceptional aptness for
study; and he had been better cared for than if his father and mother had
lived. He had been not only well housed and fed, and very well dressed, but
pitied as an orphan, and petted for his beauty and talent, while he was
always taught to think of himself as a poor boy, who was winning his own
way through the world. But when his benefactor proposed to educate him for
the ministry, with a view to his final use in missionary work, he revolted.
He apprenticed himself to the printer of his village, and rapidly picked up
a knowledge of the business, so that at nineteen he had laid by some money,
and was able to think of going to college. There was a fund in aid of
indigent students in the institution to which he turned, and the faculty
favored him. He finished his course with great credit to himself and the
college, and he was naturally inclined to look upon what had been done for
him earlier as an advantage taken of his youthful inexperience. He rebelled
against the memory of that tutelage, in spite of which he had accomplished
such great things. If he had not squandered his time or fallen into vicious
courses in circumstances of so much discouragement, if he had come out of
it all self-reliant and independent, he knew whom he had to thank for it.
The worst of the matter was that there was some truth in all this.

The ardor of his satisfaction cooled in the two years following his
graduation, when in intervals of teaching country schools he was actually
reduced to work at his trade on a village newspaper. But it was as a
practical printer, through the freemasonry of the craft, that Bartley heard
of the wish of the Equity committee to place the Free Press in new hands,
and he had to be grateful to his trade for a primary consideration from
them which his collegiate honors would not have won him. There had not
yet begun to be that talk of journalism as a profession which has since
prevailed with our collegians, and if Bartley had thought, as other
collegians think, of devoting himself to newspaper life, he would have
turned his face toward the city where its prizes are won,--the ten and
fifteen dollar reporterships for which a font years' course of the classics
is not too costly a preparation. But, to tell the truth, he had never
regarded his newspaper as anything but a make-shift, by which he was to be
carried over a difficult and anxious period of his life, and enabled to
attempt something worthier his powers. He had no illusions concerning it;
if he had ever thought of journalism as a grand and ennobling profession,
these ideas had perished, in his experience in a village printing-office.
He came to his work in Equity with practical and immediate purposes which
pleased the committee better. The paper had been established some time
before, in one of those flurries of ambition which from time to time seized
Equity, when its citizens reflected that it was the central town in the
county, and yet not the shire-town. The question of the removal of the
county-seat had periodically arisen before; but it had never been so hotly
agitated as now. The paper had been a happy thought of a local politician,
whose conception of its management was that it might be easily edited by
a committee, if a printer could be found to publish it; but a few months'
experience had made the Free Press a terrible burden to its founders; it
could not be sustained, and it could not be let die without final disaster
to the interests of the town; and the committee began to cast about for a
publisher who could also be editor. Bartley, to whom it fell, could not be
said to have thrown his heart and soul into the work, but he threw all his
energy, and he made it more than its friends could have hoped. He
espoused the cause of Equity in the pending question with the zeal of a
_condottiere_, and did service no less faithful because of the cynical
quality latent in it. When the legislative decision against Equity put an
end to its ambitious hopes for the time being, he continued in control of
the paper, with a fair prospect of getting the property into his own hands
at last, and with some growing question in his mind whether, after all, it
might not be as easy for him to go into politics from the newspaper as from
the law. He managed the office very economically, and by having the
work done by girl apprentices, with the help of one boy, he made it
self-supporting. He modelled the newspaper upon the modern conception,
through which the country press must cease to have any influence in
public affairs, and each paper become little more than an open letter of
neighborhood gossip. But while he filled his sheet with minute chronicles
of the goings and comings of unimportant persons, and with all attainable
particulars of the ordinary life of the different localities, he continued
to make spicy hits at the enemies of Equity in the late struggle, and kept
the public spirit of the town alive. He had lately undertaken to make known
its advantages as a summer resort, and had published a series of encomiums
upon the beauty of its scenery and the healthfulness of its air and water,
which it was believed would put it in a position of rivalry with some of
the famous White Mountain places. He invited the enterprise of outside
capital, and advocated a narrow-gauge road up the valley of the river
through the Notch, so as to develop the picturesque advantages of that
region. In all this, the color of mockery let the wise perceive that
Bartley saw the joke and enjoyed it, and it deepened the popular impression
of his smartness.

This vein of cynicism was not characteristic, as it would have been in
an older man; it might have been part of that spiritual and intellectual
unruliness of youth, which people laugh at and forgive, and which one
generally regards in after life as something almost alien to one's self.
He wrote long, bragging articles about Equity, in a tone bordering on
burlesque, and he had a department in his paper where he printed humorous
squibs of his own and of other people; these were sometimes copied, and in
the daily papers of the State he had been mentioned as "the funny man of
the Equity Free Press." He also sent letters to one of the Boston journals,
which he reproduced in his own sheet, and which gave him an importance that
the best endeavor as a country editor would never have won him with the
villagers. He would naturally, as the local printer, have ranked a little
above the foreman of the saw-mill in the social scale, and decidedly below
the master of the Academy; but his personal qualities elevated him over the
head even of the latter. But above all, the fact that he was studying law
was a guaranty of his superiority that nothing else could have given; that
science is the fountain of the highest distinction in a country town.
Bartley's whole course implied that he was above editing the Free Press,
but that he did it because it served his turn. That was admirable.

He sat a long time with these girls' letters before him, and lost himself
in a pensive reverie over their photographs, and over the good times he
used to have with them. He mused in that formless way in which a young
man thinks about young girls; his soul is suffused with a sense of their
sweetness and brightness, and unless he is distinctly in love there is no
intention in his thoughts of them; even then there is often no intention.
Bartley might very well have a good conscience about them; he had broken no
hearts among them, and had only met them half-way in flirtation. What he
really regretted, as he held their letters in his hand, was that he had
never got up a correspondence with two or three of the girls whom he had
met in Boston. Though he had been cowed by their magnificence in the
beginning, he had never had any reverence for them; he believed that they
would have liked very well to continue his acquaintance; but he had not
known how to open a correspondence, and the point was one on which he was
ashamed to consult Halleck. These college belles, compared with them, were
amusingly inferior; by a natural turn of thought, he realized that they
were inferior to Marcia Gaylord, too, in looks and style, no less than
in an impassioned preference for himself. A distaste for their somewhat
veteran ways in flirtation grew upon him as he thought of her; he
philosophized against them to her advantage; he could not blame her if she
did not know how to hide her feelings for him. Yet he knew that Marcia
would rather have died than let him suppose that she cared for him, if she
had known that she was doing it. The fun of it was, that she should not
know; this charmed him, it touched him, even; he did not think of it
exultingly, as the night before, but sweetly, fondly, and with a final
curiosity to see her again, and enjoy the fact in her presence. The acrid
little jets of smoke which escaped from the joints of his stove from time
to time annoyed him; he shut his portfolio at last, and went out to walk.



IV.


The forenoon sunshine, beating strong upon the thin snow along the edges of
the porch floor, tattered them with a little thaw here and there; but it
had no effect upon the hard-packed levels of the street, up the middle of
which Bartley walked in a silence intensified by the muffled voices of
exhortation that came to him out of the churches. It was in the very heart
of sermon-time, and he had the whole street to himself on his way up to
Squire Gaylord's house. As he drew near, he saw smoke ascending from the
chimney of the lawyer's office,--a little white building that stood apart
from the dwelling on the left of the gate, and he knew that the old man was
within, reading there, with his hat on and his long legs flung out toward
the stove, unshaven and unkempt, in a grim protest against the prevalent
Christian superstition. He might be reading Hume or Gibbon, or he might be
reading the Bible,--a book in which he was deeply versed, and from which
he was furnished with texts for the demolition of its friends, his
adversaries. He professed himself a great admirer of its literature, and,
in the heat of controversy, he often found himself a defender of its
doctrines when he had occasion to expose the fallacy of latitudinarian
interpretations. For liberal Christianity he had nothing but contempt, and
refuted it with a scorn which spared none of the worldly tendencies of the
church in Equity. The idea that souls were to be saved by church sociables
filled him with inappeasable rancor; and he maintained the superiority of
the old Puritanic discipline against them with a fervor which nothing but
its re-establishment could have abated. It was said that Squire Gaylord's
influence had largely helped to keep in place the last of the rigidly
orthodox ministers, under whom his liberalizing congregation chafed for
years of discontent; but this was probably an exaggeration of the native
humor. Mrs. Gaylord had belonged to this church, and had never formally
withdrawn from it, and the lawyer always contributed to pay the minister's
salary. He also managed a little property for him so well as to make him
independent when he was at last asked to resign by his deacons.

In another mood, Bartley might have stepped aside to look in on the Squire,
before asking at the house door for Marcia. They relished each other's
company, as people of contrary opinions and of no opinions are apt to do.
Bartley loved to hear the Squire get going, as he said, and the old man
felt a fascination in the youngster. Bartley was smart; he took a point as
quick as lightning; and the Squire did not mind his making friends with
the Mammon of Righteousness, as he called the visible church in Equity. It
amused him to see Bartley lending the church the zealous support of the
press, with an impartial patronage of the different creeds. There had been
times in his own career when the silence of his opinions would have greatly
advanced him, but he had not chosen to pay this price for success; he liked
his freedom, or he liked the bitter tang of his own tongue too well, and he
had remained a leading lawyer in Equity, when he might have ended a judge,
or even a Congressman. Of late years, however, since people whom he could
have joined in their agnosticism so heartily, up to a certain point, had
begun to make such fools of themselves about Darwinism and the brotherhood
of all men in the monkey, he had grown much more tolerant. He still clung
to his old-fashioned deistical opinions; but he thought no worse of a man
for not holding them; he did not deny that a man might be a Christian, and
still be a very good man.

The audacious humor of his position sufficed with a people who liked a
joke rather better than anything else; in his old age, his infidelity was
something that would hardly have been changed, if possible, by a popular
vote. Even his wife, to whom it had once been a heavy cross, borne with
secret prayer and tears, had long ceased to gainsay it in any wise. Her
family had opposed her yoking with an unbeliever when she married him,
but she had some such hopes of converting him as women cherish who give
themselves to men confirmed in drunkenness. She learned, as other women do,
that she could hardly change her husband in the least of his habits, and
that, in this great matter of his unbelief, her love was powerless. It
became easier at last for her to add self-sacrifice to self-sacrifice than
to vex him with her anxieties about his soul, and to act upon the feeling
that, if he must be lost, then she did not care to be saved. He had never
interfered with her church-going; he had rather promoted it, for he liked
to have women go; but the time came when she no longer cared to go without
him; she lapsed from her membership, and it was now many years since she
had worshipped with the people of her faith, if, indeed, she were still of
any faith. Her life was silenced in every way, and, as often happens with
aging wives in country towns, she seldom went out of her own door, and
never appeared at the social or public solemnities of the village. Her
husband and her daughter composed and bounded her world,--she always talked
of them, or of other things as related to them. She had grown an elderly
woman, without losing the color of her yellow hair; and the bloom of
girlhood had been stayed in her cheeks as if by the young habit of
blushing, which she had kept. She was still what her neighbors called very
pretty-appearing, and she must have been a beautiful girl. The silence of
her inward life subdued her manner, till now she seemed always to have come
from some place on which a deep hush had newly fallen.

She answered the door when Bartley turned the crank that snapped the
gong-bell in its centre; and the young man, who was looking at the street
while waiting for some one to come, confronted her with a start. "Oh!" he
said, "I thought it was Marcia. Good morning, Mrs. Gaylord. Isn't Marcia at
home?"

"She went to church, this morning," replied her mother. "Won't you walk
in?"

"Why, yes, I guess I will, thank you," faltered Bartley, in the
irresolution of his disappointment. "I hope I sha'n't disturb you."

"Come right into the sitting-room. She won't be gone a great while, now,"
said Mrs. Gaylord, leading the way to the large square room into which
a door at the end of the narrow hall opened. A slumberous heat from a
sheet-iron wood-stove pervaded the place, and a clock ticked monotonously
on a shelf in the corner. Mrs. Gaylord said, "Won't you take a chair?" and
herself sank into the rocker, with a deep feather cushion in the seat, and
a thinner feather cushion tied half-way up the back. After the more active
duties of her housekeeping were done, she sat every day in this chair with
her knitting or sewing, and let the clock tick the long hours of her life
away, with no more apparent impatience of them, or sense of their dulness,
than the cat on the braided rug at her feet, or the geraniums in the pots
at the sunny window. "Are you pretty well to-day?" she asked.

"Well, no, Mrs. Gaylord, I'm not," answered Bartley. "I'm all out of sorts.
I haven't felt so dyspeptic for I don't know how long."

Mrs. Gaylord smoothed the silk dress across her lap,--the thin old black
silk which she still instinctively put on for Sabbath observance, though it
was so long since she had worn it to church. "Mr. Gaylord used to have it
when we were first married, though he aint been troubled with it of late
years. He seemed to think then it was worse Sundays."

"I don't believe Sunday has much to do with it, in my case. I ate some
mince-pie and some toasted cheese last night, and I guess they didn't agree
with me very well," said Bartley, who did not spare himself the confession
of his sins when seeking sympathy: it was this candor that went so far to
convince people of his good-heartedness.

"I don't know as I ever heard that meat-pie was bad," said Mrs. Gaylord,
thoughtfully. "Mr. Gaylord used to eat it right along all through his
dyspepsia, and he never complained of it. And the cheese ought to have made
it digest."

"Well, I don't know what it was," replied Bartley, plaintively submitting
to be exonerated, "but I feel perfectly used up. Oh, I suppose I shall get
over it, or forget all about it, by to-morrow," he added, with strenuous
cheerfulness. "It isn't anything worth minding."

Mrs. Gaylord seemed to differ with him on this point. "Head ache any?" she
asked.

"It did this morning, when I first woke up," Bartley assented.

"I don't believe but what a cup of tea would be the best thing for you,"
she said, critically.

Bartley had instinctively practised a social art which ingratiated him with
people at Equity as much as his demands for sympathy endeared him: he gave
trouble in little unusual ways. He now said, "Oh, I wish you would give me
a cup, Mrs. Gaylord."

"Why, yes, indeed! That's just what I was going to," she replied. She went
to the kitchen, which lay beyond another room, and reappeared with the
tea directly, proud of her promptness, but having it on her conscience
to explain it. "I 'most always keep the pot on the stove hearth, Sunday
morning, so's to have it ready if Mr. Gaylord ever wants a cup. He's a
master hand for tea, and always was. There: _I_ guess you better take it
without milk. I put some sugar in the saucer, if you want any." She dropped
noiselessly upon her feather cushion again, and Bartley, who had risen to
receive the tea from her, remained standing while he drank it.

"That does seem to go to the spot," he said, as he sipped it, thoughtfully
observant of its effect upon his disagreeable feelings. "I wish I had
you to take care of me, Mrs. Gaylord, and keep me from making a fool of
myself," he added, when he had drained the cup. "No, no!" he cried, at her
offering to take it from him. "I'll set it down. I know it will fret you to
have it in here, and I'll carry it out into the kitchen." He did so before
she could prevent him, and came back, touching his mustache with his
handkerchief. "I declare, Mrs. Gaylord, I should love to live in a kitchen
like that."

"I guess you wouldn't if you had to," said Mrs. Gaylord, flattered into a
smile. "Marcia, she likes to sit out there, she says, better than anywheres
in the house. But I always tell her it's because she was there so much when
she was little. I don't see as she seems over-anxious to do anything there
_but_ sit, I tell her. Not but what she knows how well enough. Mr. Gaylord,
too, he's great for being round in the kitchen. If he gets up in the night,
when he has his waking spells, he had rather take his lamp out there, if
there's a fire left, and read, any time, than what he would in the parlor.
Well, we used to sit there together a good deal when we were young, and he
got the habit of it. There's everything in habit," she added, thoughtfully.
"Marcia, she's got quite in the way, lately, of going to the Methodist
church."

"Yes, I've seen her there. You know I board round at the different
churches, as the schoolmaster used to at the houses in the old times."

Mi's. Gaylord looked up at the clock, and gave a little nervous laugh.
"I don't know what Marcia will say to my letting her company stay in the
sitting-room. She's pretty late to-day. But I guess you won't have much
longer to wait, now."

She spoke with that awe of her daughter and her judgments which is one of
the pathetic idiosyncrasies of a certain class of American mothers. They
feel themselves to be not so well educated as their daughters, whose
fancied knowledge of the world they let outweigh their own experience of
life; they are used to deferring to them, and they shrink willingly into
household drudges before them, and leave them to order the social affairs
of the family. Mrs. Gaylord was not much afraid of Bartley for himself, but
as Marcia's company he made her more and more uneasy toward the end of the
quarter of an hour in which she tried to entertain him with her simple
talk, varying from Mr. Gaylord to Marcia, and from Marcia to Mr. Gaylord
again. When she recognized the girl's quick touch in the closing of the
front door, and her elastic step approached through the hall, the mother
made a little deprecating noise in her throat, and fidgeted in her chair.
As soon as Marcia opened the sitting-room door, Mrs. Gaylord modestly rose
and went out into the kitchen: the mother who remained in the room when her
daughter had company was an oddity almost unknown in Equity.

Marcia's face flashed all into a light of joy at sight of Bartley, who
scarcely waited for her mother to be gone before he drew her toward him
by the hand she had given. She mechanically yielded; and then, as if the
recollection of some new resolution forced itself through her pleasure at
sight of him, she freed her hand, and, retreating a step or two, confronted
him.

"Why, Marcia," he said, "what's the matter?"

"Nothing," she answered.

It might have amused Bartley, if he had felt quite well, to see the girl
so defiant of him, when she was really so much in love with him, but it
certainly did not amuse him now: it disappointed him in his expectation of
finding her femininely soft and comforting, and he did not know just what
to do. He stood staring at her in discomfiture, while she gained in outward
composure, though her cheeks were of the Jacqueminot red of the ribbon at
her throat. "What have I done, Marcia?" he faltered.

"Oh, you haven't done anything."

"Some one has been talking to you against me."

"No one has said a word to me about you."

"Then why are you so cold--so strange--so--so--different?"

"Different?"

"Yes, from what you were last night," he answered, with an aggrieved air.

"Oh, we see some things differently by daylight," she lightly explained.
"Won't you sit down?"

"No, thank you," Bartley replied, sadly but unresentfully. "I think I had
better be going. I see there is something wrong--"

"I don't see why you say there is anything wrong," she retorted. "What have
_I_ done?"

"Oh, you have not _done_ anything; I take it back. It is all right. But
when I came here this morning--encouraged--hoping--that you had the same
feeling as myself, and you seem to forget everything but a ceremonious
acquaintanceship--why, it is all right, of course. I have no reason to
complain; but I must say that I can't help being surprised." He saw her
lips quiver and her bosom heave. "Marcia, do you blame me for feeling hurt
at your coldness when I came here to tell you--to tell you I--I love you?"
With his nerves all unstrung, and his hunger for sympathy, he really
believed that he had come to tell her this. "Yes," he added, bitterly, "I
_will_ tell you, though it seems to be the last word I shall speak to you.
I'll go, now."

"Bartley! You shall _never_ go!" she cried, throwing herself in his way.
"Do you think I don't care for you, too? You may kiss me,--you may _kill_
me, now!"

The passionate tears sprang to her eyes, without the sound of sobs or the
contortion of weeping, and she did not wait for his embrace. She flung her
arms around his neck and held him fast, crying, "I wouldn't let you, for
your own sake, darling; and if I had died for it--I thought I should
die last night--I was never going to let you kiss me again till you
said--till--till--now! Don't you see?" She caught him tighter, and hid
her face in his neck, and cried and laughed for joy and shame, while he
suffered her caresses with a certain bewilderment. "I want to tell you
now--I want to explain," she said, lifting her face and letting him from
her as far as her arms, caught around his neck, would reach, and fervidly
searching his eyes, lest some ray of what he would think should escape
her. "Don't speak a word first! Father saw us at the door last night,--he
happened to be coming downstairs, because he couldn't sleep,--just when
you--Oh, Bartley, don't!" she implored, at the little smile that made his
mustache quiver. "And he asked me whether we were engaged; and when I
couldn't tell him we were, I know what he thought. I knew how he despised
me, and I determined that, if you didn't tell me that you cared for me--And
that's the reason, Bartley, and not--not because I didn't care more for you
than I do for the whole world. And--and--you don't mind it, now, do you? It
was for your sake, dearest."

Whether Bartley perfectly divined or not all the feeling at which her words
hinted, it was delicious to be clung about by such a pretty girl as
Marcia Gaylord, to have her now darting her face into his neck-scarf with
intolerable consciousness, and now boldly confronting him with all-defying
fondness while she lightly pushed him and pulled him here and there in the
vehemence of her appeal. Perhaps such a man, in those fastnesses of his
nature which psychology has not yet explored, never loses, even in the
tenderest transports, the sense of prey as to the girl whose love he has
won; but if this is certain, it is also certain that he has transports
which are tender, and Bartley now felt his soul melted with affection that
was very novel and sweet.

"Why, Marcia!" he said, "what a strange girl you are!" He sunk into his
chair again, and, putting his arms around her waist, drew her upon his
knee, like a child.

She held herself apart from him at her arm's length, and said, "Wait! Let
me say it before it seems as if we had always been engaged, and everything
was as right then as it is now. Did you despise me for letting you kiss me
before we were engaged?"

"No," he laughed again. "I liked you for it."

"But if you thought I would let any one else, you wouldn't have liked it?"

This diverted him still more. "I shouldn't have liked that more than half
as well."

"No," she said thoughtfully. She dropped her face awhile on his shoulder,
and seemed to be struggling with herself. Then she lifted it, and "Did you
ever--did you--" she gasped.

"If you want me to say that all the other girls in the world are not worth
a hair of your head, I'll say that, Marcia. Now, let's talk business!"

This made her laugh, and "I shall want a little lock of yours," she said,
as if they had hitherto been talking of nothing but each other's hair.

"And I shall want all of yours," he answered.

"No. Don't be silly." She critically explored his face. "How funny to have
a mole in your eyebrow!" She put her finger on it. "I never saw it before."

"You never looked so closely. There's a scar at the corner of your upper
lip that I hadn't noticed."

"Can you see that?" she demanded, radiantly. "Well, you _have_ got good
eyes! The cat did it when I was a little girl."

The door opened, and Mrs. Gaylord surprised them in the celebration of
these discoveries,--or, rather, she surprised herself, for she stood
holding the door and helpless to move, though in her heart she had an
apologetic impulse to retire, and she even believed that she made some
murmurs of excuse for her intrusion. Bartley was equally abashed, but
Marcia rose with the coolness of her sex in the intimate emergencies which
confound a man. "Oh, mother, it's you! I forgot about you. Come in! Or I'll
set the table, if that's what you want." As Mrs. Gaylord continued to look
from her to Bartley in her daze, Marcia added, simply, "We're engaged,
mother. You may as well know it first as last, and I guess you better know
it first."

Her mother appeared not to think it safe to relax her hold upon the door,
and Bartley went filially to her rescue--if it was rescue to salute her
blushing defencelessness as he did. A confused sense of the extraordinary
nature and possible impropriety of the proceeding may have suggested her
husband to her mind; or it may have been a feeling that some remark was
expected of her, even in the mental destitution to which she was reduced.

"Have you told Mr. Gaylord about it?" she asked of either, or neither, or
both, as they chose to take it.

Bartley left the word to Marcia, who answered, "Well, no, mother. We
haven't yet. We've only just found it out ourselves. I guess father can
wait till he comes in to dinner. I intend to keep Bartley here to prove
it."

"He said," remarked Mrs. Gaylord, whom Bartley had led to her chair and
placed on her cushion, "'t he had a headache when he first came in," and
she appealed to him for corroboration, while she vainly endeavored to
gather force to grapple again with the larger fact that he and Marcia were
just engaged to be married.

Marcia stopped down, and pulled her mother up out of her chair with a hug.
"Oh, come now, mother: You mustn't let it take your breath away," she said,
with patronizing fondness. "I'm not afraid of what father will say. You
know what he thinks of Bartley,--or Mr. Hubbard, as I presume you'll want
me to call him! Now, mother, you just run up stairs, and put on your best
cap, and leave me to set the table and get up the dinner. I guess I can get
Bartley to help me. Mother, mother, mother!" she cried, in happiness that
was otherwise unutterable, and clasping her mother closer in her strong
young arms, she kissed her with a fervor that made her blush again before
the young man.

"Marcia, Marcia! You hadn't ought to! It's ridiculous!" she protested. But
she suffered herself to be thrust out of the room, grateful for exile, in
which she could collect her scattered wits and set herself to realize the
fact that had dispersed them. It was decorous, also, for her to leave
Marcia alone with Mr. Hubbard, far more so now than when he was merely
company; she felt that, and she fumbled over the dressing she was sent
about, and once she looked out of her chamber window at the office where
Mr. Gaylord sat, and wondered what Mr. Gaylord (she thought of him, and
even dreamt of him, as Mr. Gaylord, and had never, in the most familiar
moments, addressed him otherwise) _would_ say! But she left the solution
of the problem to him and Marcia; she was used to leaving them to the
settlement of their own difficulties.

"Now, Bartley," said Marcia, in the business-like way that women assume in
such matters, as soon as the great fact is no longer in doubt, "you must
help me to set the table. Put up that leaf and I'll put up this. I'm going
to do more for mother than I used to," she said, repentant in her bliss.
"It's a shame how much I've left to her." The domestic instinct was already
astir in her heart.

Bartley pulled the table-cloth straight from her, and vied with her in the
rapidity and exactness with which he arranged the knives and forks at right
angles beside the plates. When it came to some heavier dishes, they agreed
to carry them turn about; but when it was her turn, he put out his hand
to support her elbow: "As I did last night, and saved you from dropping a
lamp."

This made her laugh, and she dropped the first dish with a crash. "Poor
mother!" she exclaimed. "I know she heard that, and she'll be in agony to
know which one it is."

Mrs. Gaylord did indeed hear it, far off in her chamber, and quaked with an
anxiety which became intolerable at last.

"Marcia! Marcia!" she quavered, down the stairs, "what _have_ you broken?"

Marcia opened the door long enough to call back, "Oh, only the old
blue-edged platter, mother!" and then she flew at Bartley, crying, "For
shame! For shame!" and pressing her hand over his mouth to stifle his
laughter. "She'll hear you, Bartley, and think you're laughing at her." But
she laughed herself at his struggles, and ended by taking him by the hand
and pulling him out into, the kitchen, where neither of them could be
heard. She abandoned herself to the ecstasy of her soul, and he thought she
had never been so charming as in this wild gayety.

"Why, Marsh! I never saw you carry on so before!"

"You never saw me engaged before! That's the way all girls act--if they get
the chance. Don't you like me to be so?" she asked, with quick anxiety.

"Rather!" he replied.

"Oh, Bartley!" she exclaimed, "I feel like a child. I surprise myself as
much as I do you; for I thought I had got very old, and I didn't suppose I
should ever let myself go in this way. But there is something about this
that lets me be as silly as I like. It's somehow as if I were a great deal
more alone when I'm with you than when I'm by myself! How does it make you
feel?"

"Good!" he answered, and that satisfied her better than if he had entered
into those subtleties which she had tried to express: it was more like a
man. He had his arm about her again, and she put down her hand on his to
press it closer against her heart.

"Of course," she explained, recurring to his surprise at her frolic mood,
"I don't expect you to be silly because I am."

"No," he assented; "but how can I help it?"

"Oh, I don't mean for the time being; I mean generally speaking. I mean
that I care for you because I know you know a great deal more than I
do, and because I respect you. I know that everybody expects you to be
something great, and I do, too."

Bartley did not deny the justness of her opinions concerning himself, or
the reasonableness of the general expectation, though he probably could
not see the relation of these cold abstractions to the pleasure of sitting
there with a pretty girl in that way. But he said nothing.

"Do you know," she went on, turning her face prettily around toward him,
but holding it a little way off, to secure attention as impersonal as might
be under the circumstances, "what pleased me more than anything else you
ever said to me?"

"No," answered Bartley. "Something you got out of me when you were trying
to make me tell you the difference between you and the other Equity girls?"

She laughed, in glad defiance of her own consciousness. "Well, I _was_
trying to make you compliment me; I'm not going to deny it. But I must say
I got my come-uppance: you didn't say a thing I cared for. But you did
afterward. Don't you remember?"

"No. When?"

She hesitated a moment. "When you told me that my influence had--had--made
you better, you know--"

"Oh!" said Bartley. "That! Well," he added, carelessly, "it's every word
true. Didn't you believe it?"

"I was just as glad as if I did; and it made me resolve never to do or say
a thing that could lower your opinion of me; and then, you know, there at
the door--it all seemed part of our trying to make each other better. But
when father looked at me in that way, and asked me if we were engaged, I
went down into the dust with shame. And it seemed to me that you had just
been laughing at me, and amusing yourself with me, and I was so furious I
didn't know what to do. Do you know what I wanted to do? I wanted to run
downstairs to father, and tell him what you had said, and ask him if he
believed you had ever liked any other girl." She paused a little, but he
did not answer, and she continued. "But now I'm glad I didn't. And I shall
never ask you that, and I shall not care for anything that you--that's
happened before to-day. It's all right. And you _do_ think I shall always
_try_ to make you good and happy, don't you?"

"I don't think you can make me much happier than I am at present, and I
don't believe anybody could make me feel better," answered Bartley.

She gave a little laugh at his refusal to be serious, and let her head, for
fondness, fall upon his shoulder, while he turned round and round a ring he
found on her finger.

"Ah, ha!" he said, after a while. "Who gave you this ring, Miss Gaylord?"

"Father, Christmas before last," she promptly answered, without moving.
"I'm glad you asked," she murmured, in a lower voice, full of pride in the
maiden love she could give him. "There's never been any one but you, or the
thought of any one." She suddenly started away.

"Now, let's play we're getting dinner." It was quite time; in the next
moment the coffee boiled up, and if she had not caught the lid off and
stirred it down with her spoon, it would have been spoiled. The steam
ascended to the ceiling, and filled the kitchen with the fragrant smell of
the berry.

"I'm glad we're going to have coffee," she said. "You'll have to put up
with a cold dinner, except potatoes. But the coffee will make up, and I
shall need a cup to keep me awake. I don't believe I slept last night till
nearly morning. Do you like coffee?"

"I'd have given all I ever expect to be worth for a cup of it, last night,"
he said. "I was awfully hungry when I got back to the hotel, and I couldn't
find anything but a piece of mince-pie and some old cheese, and I had to be
content with cold milk. I felt as if I had lost all my friends this morning
when I woke up."

A sense of remembered grievance trembled in his voice, and made her drop
her head on his arm, in pity and derision of him. "Poor Bartley!" she
cried. "And you came up here for a little petting from me, didn't you? I've
noticed that in you! Well, you didn't get it, did you?"

"Well, not at first," he said.

"Yes, you can't complain of any want of petting at last," she returned,
delighted at his indirect recognition of the difference. Then the daring,
the archness, and caprice that make coquetry in some women, and lurk a
divine possibility in all, came out in her; the sweetness, kept back by the
whole strength of her pride, overflowed that broken barrier now, and she
seemed to lavish this revelation of herself upon him with a sort of tender
joy in his bewilderment. She was not hurt when he crudely expressed the
elusive sense which has been in other men's minds at such times: they
cannot believe that this fascination is inspired, and not practised.

"Well," he said, "I'm glad you told me that I was the first. I should have
thought you'd had a good deal of experience in flirtation."

"You wouldn't have thought so if you hadn't been a great flirt yourself,"
she answered, audaciously. "Perhaps I have been engaged before!"

Their talk was for the most part frivolous, and their thoughts ephemeral;
but again they were, with her at least, suddenly and deeply serious. Till
then all things seemed to have been held in arrest, and impressions, ideas,
feelings, fears, desires, released themselves simultaneously, and sought
expression with a rush that defied coherence. "Oh, why do we try to talk?"
she asked, at last. "The more we say, the more we leave unsaid. Let us keep
still awhile!" But she could not. "Bartley! When did you first think you
cared about me?"

"I don't know," said Bartley, "I guess it must have been the first time I
saw you."

"Yes, that is when I first knew that I cared for you. But it seems to me
that I must have always cared for you, and that I only found it out when I
saw you going by the house that day." She mused a little time before she
asked again, "Bartley!"

"Well?"

"Did you ever use to be afraid--Or, no! Wait! I'll _tell_ you first, and
then I'll _ask_ you. I'm not ashamed of it now, though once I thought I
couldn't bear to have any one find it out. I used to be awfully afraid you
didn't care for me! I would try to make out, from things you did and said,
whether you did or not; but I never could be certain. I believe I used to
find the most comfort in discouraging myself. I used to say to myself,
'Why, of course he doesn't! How can he? He's been everywhere, and he's seen
so many girls. He corresponds with lots of them. Altogether likely he's
engaged to some of the young ladies he's met in Boston; and he just goes
with me here for a blind.' And then when you would praise me, sometimes,
I would just say, 'Oh, he's complimented plenty of girls. I know he's
thinking this instant of the young lady he's engaged to in Boston.' And it
would almost kill me; and when you did some little thing to show that you
liked me, I would think, 'He doesn't like me! He hates, he despises me. He
does, he does, he does!' And I would go on that way, with my teeth shut,
and my breath held, I don't know _how_ long." Bartley broke out into a
broad laugh at this image of desperation, but she added, tenderly, "I hope
I never made you suffer in that way?"

"What way?" he asked.

"That's what I wanted you to tell me. Did you ever--did you use to be
afraid sometimes that I--that you--did you put off telling me that you
cared for me so long because you thought, you dreaded--Oh, I don't see what
I can ever do to make it up to you if you did! Were you afraid I didn't
care for you?"

"No!" shouted Bartley. She had risen and stood before him in the fervor
of her entreaty, and he seized her arms, pinioning them to her side, and
holding her helpless, while he laughed, and laughed again. "I knew you were
dead in love with me from the first moment."

"Bartley! Bartley Hubbard!" she exclaimed; "let me go,--let me go, this
instant! I never heard of such a shameless thing!"

But she really made no effort to escape.



V.


The house seemed too little for Marcia's happiness, and after dinner she
did not let Bartley forget his last night's engagement. She sent him off to
get his horse at the hotel, and ran up to her room to put on her wraps for
the drive. Her mother cleared away the dinner things; she pushed the table
to the side of the room, and then sat down in her feather-cushioned chair
and waited her husband's pleasure to speak. He ordinarily rose from the
Sunday dinner and went back to his office; to-day he had taken a chair
before the stove. But he had mechanically put his hat on, and he wore it
pushed off his forehead as he tilted his chair back on its hind legs, and
braced himself against the hearth of the stove with his feet.

A man is master in his own house generally through the exercise of a
certain degree of brutality, but Squire Gaylord maintained his predominance
by an enlightened absenteeism. No man living always at home was ever so
little under his own roof. While he was in more active business life, he
had kept an office in the heart of the village, where he spent all his
days, and a great part of every night; but after he had become rich enough
to risk whatever loss of business the change might involve, he bought this
large old square house on the border of the village, and thenceforth made
his home in the little detached office.

If Mrs. Gaylord had dimly imagined that she should see something more of
him, having him so near at hand, she really saw less: there was no weather,
by day or night, in which he could not go to his office, now. He went no
more than his wife into the village society; she might have been glad now
and then of a little glimpse of the world, but she never said so, and her
social life had ceased, like her religious life. Their house was richly
furnished according to the local taste of the time; the parlor had a
Brussels carpet, and heavy chairs of mahogany and hair-cloth; Marcia had a
piano there, and since she had come home from school they had made company,
as Mrs. Gaylord called it, two or three times for her; but they had held
aloof from the festivity, the Squire in his office, and Mrs. Gaylord in the
family room where they now sat in unwonted companionship.

"Well, Mr. Gaylord," said his wife, "I don't know as you can say but what
_Marcia_'s suited well enough."

This was the first allusion they had made to the subject, but she let it
take the argumentative form of her cogitations.

"M-yes," sighed the Squire, in long, nasal assent, "most too well, if
anything." He rasped first one unshaven cheek and then the other, with his
thin, quivering hand.

"He's smart enough," said Mrs. Gaylord, as before.

"M-yes, most too smart," replied her husband, a little more quickly than
before. "He's smart enough, even if she wasn't, to see from the start that
she was crazy to have him, and that isn't the best way to begin life for a
married couple, if I'm a judge."

"It would killed her if she hadn't got him. I could see 't was wearin' on
her every day, more and more. She used to fairly jump, every knock she'd
hear at the door; and I know sometimes, when she was afraid he wa' n't
coming, she used to go out, in hopes 't she sh'd meet him: I don't suppose
she allowed to herself that she did it for that--Marcia's proud."

"M-yes," said the Squire, "she's proud. And when a proud girl makes a fool
of herself about a fellow, it's a matter of life and death with her. She
can't help herself. She lets go everything."

"I declare," Mrs. Gaylord went on, "it worked me up considerable to have
her come in some those times, and see by her face 't she'd seen him with
some the other girls. She used to _look_ so! And then I'd hear her up in
her room, cryin' and cryin'. I shouldn't cared so much, if Marcia'd been
like any other girl, kind of flirty, like, about it. But she wa' n't. She
was just bowed down before her idol."

A final assent came from the Squire, as if wrung out of his heart, and he
rose from his chair, and then sat down again. Marcia was his child, and he
loved her with his whole soul. "M-well!" he deeply sighed, "all that part's
over, anyway," but he tingled in an anguish of sympathy with what she had
suffered. "You see, Miranda, how she looked at me when she first came in
with him,--so proud and independent, poor girl! and yet as if she was
afraid I _mightn't_ like it?"

"Yes, I see it."

He pulled his hat far down over his cavernous eyes, and worked his thin,
rusty old jaws.

"I hope 't she'll be able to school herself, so 's t' not show out her
feelings so much," said Mrs. Gaylord.

"I wish she could school herself so as to not have 'em so much; but I guess
she'll have 'em, and I guess she'll show 'em out." They were both silent;
after a while he added, throwing at the stove a minute fragment of the cane
he had pulled off the seat of his chair: "Miranda, I've expected something
of this sort a good while, and I've thought over what Bartley had better
do."

Mrs. Gaylord stooped forward and picked up the bit of wood which her
husband had thrown down; her vigilance was rewarded by finding a thread on
the oil-cloth near where it lay; she whipped this round her finger, and her
husband continued: "He'd better give up his paper and go into the law. He
's done well in the paper, and he's a smart writer; but editing a newspaper
aint any work for a _man_. It's all well enough as long as he's single,
but when he's got a wife to look after, he'd better get down to _work_. My
business is in just such a shape now that I could hand it over to him in a
lump; but come to wait a year or two longer, and this young man and that
one 'll eat into it, and it won't be the same thing at all. I shall want
Bartley to push right along, and get admitted at once. He can do it, fast
enough. He's bright enough," added the old man, with a certain grimness.
"M-well!" he broke out, with a quick sigh, after a moment of musing; "it
hasn't happened at any very bad time. I was just thinking, this morning,
that I should like to have my whole time, pretty soon, to look after my
property. I sha'n't want Bartley to do _that_ for me. I'll give him a good
start in money and in business; but I'll look after my property myself.
I'll speak to him, the first chance I get."

A light step sounded on the stairs, and Marcia burst into the room,
ready for her drive. "I wanted to get a good warm before I started," she
explained, stooping before the stove, and supporting herself with one hand
on her father's knee. There had been no formal congratulations upon her
engagement from either of her parents; but this was not requisite, and
would have been a little affected; they were perhaps now ashamed to mention
it outright before her alone. The Squire, however, went so far as to put
his hand over the hand she had laid upon his knee, and to smooth it twice
or thrice.

"You going to ride after that sorrel colt of Bartley's?" he asked.

"Of course!" she answered, with playful pertness. "I guess Bartley can
manage the sorrel colt! He's never had any trouble yet."

"He's always been able to give his whole mind to him before," said the
Squire. He gave Marcia's hand a significant squeeze, and let it go.

She would not confess her consciousness of his meaning at once. She looked
up at the clock, and then turned and pulled her father's watch out of his
waistcoat pocket, and compared the time. "Why, you're both fast!"

"Perhaps Bartley's slow," said the Squire; and having gone as far as he
intended in this direction, he permitted himself a low chuckle.

The sleigh-bells jingled without, and she sprang lightly to her feet. "I
guess you don't think Bartley's slow," she exclaimed, and hung over her
father long enough to rub her lips against his bristly cheek. "By, mother,"
she said, over her shoulder, and went out of the room. She let her muff
hang as far down in front of her as her arms would reach, in a stylish way,
and moved with a little rhythmical tilt, as if to some inner music. Even in
her furs she was elegantly slender in shape.

The old people remained silent and motionless till the clash of the bells
died away. Then the Squire rose, and went to the wood-shed beyond the
kitchen, whence he reappeared with an armful of wood. His wife started at
the sight. "Mr. Gaylord, what _be_ you doin'?"

"Oh, I'm going to make 'em up a little fire in the parlor stove. I guess
they won't want us round a great deal, when they come back."

Mrs. Gaylord said, "Well, I never did!" When her husband returned from the
parlor, she added, "I suppose some folks'd say it was rather of a strange
way of spendin' the Sabbath."

"It's a very good way of spending the Sabbath. You don't suppose that
any of the people in church are half as happy, do you? Why, old Jonathan
Edwards himself used to allow 'all proper opportunity' for the young
fellows that come to see his girls, 'and a room and fire, if needed.' His
'Life' says so."

"I guess he didn't allow it on the Sabbath," retorted Mrs. Gaylord.

"Well, the 'Life' don't say," chuckled the Squire. "Why, Miranda, I do it
for Marcia! There's never but one first day to an engagement. You know that
as well as I do." In saying this, Squire Gaylord gave way to his repressed
emotion in an extravagance. He suddenly stooped over and kissed his wife;
but he spared her confusion by going out to his office at once, where he
stayed the whole afternoon.

Bartley and Marcia took the "Long Drive," as it was called, at Equity. The
road plunged into the darkly wooded gulch beyond the house, and then
struck away eastward, crossing loop after loop of the river on the covered
bridges, where the neighbors, who had broken it out with their ox-teams in
the open, had thickly bedded it in snow. In the valleys and sheltered spots
it remained free, and so wide that encountering teams could easily pass
each other; but where it climbed a hill, or crossed a treeless level, it
was narrowed to a single track, with turn-outs at established points, where
the drivers of the sleighs waited to be sure that the stretch beyond was
clear before going forward. In the country, the winter which held the
village in such close siege was an occupation under which Nature seemed
to cower helpless, and men made a desperate and ineffectual struggle. The
houses, banked up with snow almost to the sills of the windows that looked
out, blind with frost, upon the lifeless world, were dwarfed in the drifts,
and seemed to founder in a white sea blotched with strange bluish shadows
under the slanting sun. Where they fronted close upon the road, it was
evident that the fight with the snow was kept up unrelentingly; spaces were
shovelled out, and paths were kept open to the middle of the highway, and
to the barn; but where they were somewhat removed, there was no visible
trace of the conflict, and no sign of life except the faint, wreathed lines
of smoke wavering upward from the chimneys.

In the hollows through which the road passed, the lower boughs of the
pines and hemlocks were weighed down with the snow-fall till they lay half
submerged in the drifts; but wherever the wind could strike them, they
swung free of this load and met in low, flat arches above the track. The
river betrayed itself only when the swift current of a ripple broke through
the white surface in long, irregular, grayish blurs. It was all wild and
lonesome, but to the girl alone in it with her lover, the solitude was
sweet, and she did not wish to speak even to him. His hands were both busy
with the reins, but it was agreed between them that she might lock hers
through his arm. Cowering close to him under the robes, she laid her head
on his shoulder and looked out over the flying landscape in measureless
content, and smiled, with filling eyes, when he bent over, and warmed his
cold, red cheek on the top of her fur cap.

The moments of bliss that silence a woman rouse a man to make sure of his
rapture. "How do you like it, Marsh?" he asked, trying at one of these
times to peer round into her face. "Are you afraid?"

"No,--only of getting back too soon."

He made the shivering echoes answer with his delight in this, and chirruped
to the colt, who pushed forward at a wilder speed, flinging his hoofs out
before him with the straight thrust of the horn trotter, and seeming to
overtake them as they flew. "I should like this ride to last forever!"

"Forever!" she repeated. "That would do for a beginning."

"Marsh! What a girl you are! I never supposed you would be so free to let a
fellow know how much you cared for him."

"Neither did I," she answered dreamily. "But now--now the only trouble is
that I don't know _how_ to let him know." She gave his arm to which she
clung a little convulsive clutch, and pressed her head harder upon his
shoulder.

"Well, that's pretty much my complaint, too," said Bartley, "though I
couldn't have expressed it so well."

"Oh, _you_ express!" she murmured, with the pride in him which implied
that there were no thoughts worth expressing to which he could not give a
monumental utterance. Her adoration flattered his self-love to the same
passionate intensity, and to something like the generous complexion of her
worship.

"Marcia," he answered, "I am going to try to be all you expect of me. And I
hope I shall never do anything unworthy of your ideal."

She could only press his arm again in speechless joy, but she said to
herself that she should always remember these words.

The wind had been rising ever since they started but they had not noticed
it till now, when the woods began to thin away on either side, and he
stopped before striking out over one of the naked stretches of the
plain,--a white waste swept by the blasts that sucked down through a gorge
of the mountain, and flattened the snow-drifts as the tornado flattens the
waves. Across this expanse ran the road, its stiff lines obliterated here
and there, in the slight depressions, and showing dark along the rest of
the track.

It was a good half-mile to the next body of woods, and midway there was one
of those sidings where a sleigh approaching from the other quarter must
turn out and yield the right of way. Bartley stopped his colt, and scanned
the road.

"Anybody coming?" asked Marcia.

"No, I don't see any one. But if there's any one in the woods yonder,
they'd better wait till I get across. No horse in Equity can beat this colt
to the turn-out."

"Oh, well, look carefully, Bartley. If we met any one beyond the turn-out,
I don't know what I should do," pleaded the girl.

"I don't know what _they_ would do," said Bartley. "But it's their lookout
now, if they come. Wrap your face up well, or put your head under the robe.
I've got to hold my breath the next half-mile." He loosed the reins, and
sped the colt out of the shelter where he had halted. The wind struck them
like an edge of steel, and, catching the powdery snow that their horse's
hoofs beat up, sent it spinning and swirling far along the glistening
levels on their lee. They felt the thrill of the go as if they were in some
light boat leaping over a swift current. Marcia disdained to cover her
face, if he must confront the wind, but after a few gasps she was glad to
bend forward, and bury it in the long hair of the bearskin robe. When she
lifted it, they were already past the siding, and she saw a cutter dashing
toward them from the cover of the woods. "Bartley!" she screamed, "the
sleigh!"

"Yes," he shouted. "Some fool! There's going to be trouble here," he
added, checking his horse as he could. "They don't seem to know how to
manage--It's a couple of women! Hold on! hold on!" he called. "Don't try to
turn out! I'll turn out!"

The women pulled their horse's head this way and that, in apparent
confusion, and then began to turn out into the trackless snow at the
roadside, in spite of Bartley's frantic efforts to arrest them. They sank
deeper and deeper into the drift; their horse plunged and struggled, and
then their cutter went over, amidst their shrieks and cries for help.

Bartley drove up abreast of the wreck, and, saying, "Still, Jerry! Don't be
afraid, Marcia,"--he put the reins into her hands, and sprang out to the
rescue.

One of the women had been flung out free of the sleigh, and had already
gathered herself up, and stood crying and wringing her hands; "Oh, Mr.
Hubbard, Mr. Hubbard! Help Hannah! she's under there!"

"All right! Keep quiet, Mrs. Morrison! Take hold of your horse's head!"
Bartley had first of all seized him by the bit, and pulled him to his feet;
he was old and experienced in obedience, and he now stood waiting orders,
patiently enough. Bartley seized the cutter and by an effort of all his
strength righted it. The colt started and trembled, but Marcia called to
him in Bartley's tone, "Still, Jerry!" and he obeyed her.

The girl, who had been caught under the overturned cutter, escaped like
a wild thing out of a trap, when it was lifted, and, plunging some paces
away, faced round upon her rescuer with the hood pulled straight and set
comely to her face again, almost before he could ask, "Any bones broken,
Hannah?"

"_No_!" she shouted. "Mother! mother! stop crying! Don't you see I'm not
dead?" She leaped about, catching up this wrap and that, shaking the dry
snow out of them, and flinging them back into the cutter, while she laughed
in the wild tumult of her spirits. Bartley helped her pick up the fragments
of the wreck, and joined her in making fun of the adventure. The wind
hustled them, but they were warm in defiance of it with their jollity and
their bustle.

"Why didn't you let me turn out?" demanded Bartley, as he and the girl
stood on opposite sides of the cutter, rearranging the robes in it.

"Oh, I thought I could turn out well enough. You had a right to the road."

"Well, the next time you see any one past the turn-out, you better not
start from the woods."

"Why, there's no more room in the woods to get past than there is here,"
cried the girl.

"There's more shelter."

"Oh, I'm not cold!" She flashed a look at him from her brilliant face, warm
with all the glow of her young health, and laughed, and before she dropped
her eyes, she included Marcia in her glance. They had already looked at
each other without any sign of recognition. "Come, mother! All right, now!"

Her mother left the horse's head, and, heavily ploughing back to the
cutter, tumbled herself in. The girl, from her side, began to climb in, but
her weight made the sleigh careen, and she dropped down with a gay shriek.

Bartley came round and lifted her in; the girl called to her horse, and
drove up into the road and away.

Bartley looked after her a moment, and continued to glance in that
direction when he stood stamping the snow off his feet, and brushing it
from his legs and arms, before he remounted to Marcia's side. He was
excited, and talked rapidly and loudly, as he took the reins from Marcia's
passive hold, and let the colt out. "That girl is the pluckiest fool, yet!
Wouldn't let me turn out because I had the right of way! And she wasn't
going to let anybody else have a hand in getting that old ark of theirs
afloat again. Good their horse wasn't anything like Jerry! How well Jerry
behaved! Were you frightened, Marsh?" He bent over to see her face, but she
had not her head on his shoulder, and she did not sit close to him, now.
"Did you freeze?"

"Oh, no! I got along very well," she answered, dryly, and edged away as far
as the width of the seat would permit. "It would have been better for
you to lead their horse up into the road, and then she could have got in
without your help. Her mother got in alone."

He took the reins into his left hand, and, passing his strong right around
her, pulled her up to his side. She resisted, with diminishing force; at
last she ceased to resist, and her head fell passively to its former place
on his shoulder. He did not try to speak any word of comfort; he only held
her close to him; when she looked up, as they entered the village, she
confronted him with a brilliant smile that ignored her tears.

But that night, when she followed him to the door, she looked him
searchingly in the eyes. "I wonder if you really do despise me, Bartley?"
she asked.

"Certainly," he answered, with a jesting smile. "What for?"

"For showing out my feelings so. For not even trying to pretend not to care
everything for you."

"It wouldn't be any use your trying: I should know that you did, anyway."

"Oh, don't laugh, Bartley, don't laugh! I don't believe that I ought to.
I've heard that it makes people sick of you. But I can't help it,--I can't
help it! And if--if you think I'm always going to be so,--and that I'm
going to keep on getting worse and worse, and making you so unhappy, why,
you'd better break your engagement now--while you have a chance."

"What have you been making me unhappy about, I should like to know? I
thought I'd been having a very good time."

She hid her face against his breast. "It almost _killed_ me to see you
there with her. I was so cold,--my hands were half frozen, holding the
reins,--and I was so afraid of the colt I didn't know what to do; and I had
been keeping up my courage on your account; and you seemed so long about
it all; and she could have got in perfectly well--as well as her mother
did--without your help--" Her voice broke in a miserable sob, and she
clutched herself tighter to him.

He smoothed down her hair with his hand. "Why, Marsh! Did you think that
made me unhappy? _I_ didn't mind it a bit. I knew what the trouble was, at
the time; but I wasn't going to say anything. I knew you would be all right
as soon as you could think it over. You don't suppose I care anything for
that girl?"

"No," answered a rueful sob. "But I _wish_ you didn't have anything to do
with her. I know she'll make trouble for you, somehow."

"Well," said Bartley, "I can't very well turn her off as long as she does
her work. But you needn't be worried about making me unhappy. If anything,
I rather liked it. It showed how much you _did_ care for me." He bent
toward her, with a look of bright raillery, for the parting kiss. "Now
then: once, twice, three times,--and good night it is!"



VI.


The spectacle of a love affair in which the woman gives more of her heart
than the man gives of his is so pitiable that we are apt to attribute a
kind of merit to her, as if it were a voluntary self-sacrifice for her to
love more than her share. Not only other men, but other women, look on with
this canonizing compassion; for women have a lively power of imagining
themselves in the place of any sister who suffers in matters of sentiment,
and are eager to espouse the common cause in commiserating her. Each of
them pictures herself similarly wronged or slighted by the man she likes
best, and feels how cruel it would be if he were to care less for her than
she for him; and for the time being, in order to realize the situation, she
loads him with all the sins of omission proper to the culprit in the alien
case. But possibly there is a compensation in merely loving, even where the
love given is out of all proportion to the love received.

If Bartley Hubbard's sensations and impressions of the day had been at all
reasoned, that night as he lay thinking it over, he could unquestionably
have seen many advantages for Marcia in the affair,--perhaps more than for
himself. But to do him justice he did not formulate these now, or in any
wise explicitly recognize the favors he was bestowing. At twenty-six one
does not naturally compute them in musing upon the girl to whom one is just
betrothed; and Bartley's mind was a confusion of pleasure. He liked so well
to think how fond of him Marcia was, that it did not occur to him then to
question whether he were as fond of her. It is possible that as he drowsed,
at last, there floated airily through the consciousness which was melting
and dispersing itself before the approach of sleep, an intimation from
somewhere to some one that perhaps the affair need not be considered too
seriously. But in that mysterious limbo one cannot be sure of what is
thought and what is dreamed; and Bartley always acquitted himself, and
probably with justice, of any want of seriousness.

What he did make sure of when he woke was that he was still out of sorts,
and that he had again that dull headache; and his instant longing for
sympathy did more than anything else to convince him that he really loved
Marcia, and had never, in his obscurest or remotest feeling, swerved in
his fealty to her. In the atmosphere of her devotion yesterday, he had so
wholly forgotten his sufferings that he had imagined himself well; but now
he found that he was not well, and he began to believe that he was going to
have what the country people call a fit of sickness. He felt that he ought
to be taken care, of, that he was unfit to work; and in his vexation at
not being able to go to Marcia for comfort-it really amounted to nothing
less--he entered upon the day's affairs with fretful impatience.

The Free Press was published on Tuesdays, and Monday was always a busy time
of preparation. The hands were apt also to feel the demoralization that
follows a holiday, even when it has been a holy day. The girls who set the
type of the Free Press had by no means foregone the rights and privileges
of their sex in espousing their art, and they had their beaux on Sunday
night like other young ladies. It resulted that on Monday morning they were
nervous and impatient, alternating between fits of giggling delight in the
interchange of fond reminiscences, and the crossness which is pretty sure
to disfigure human behavior from want of sleep. But ordinarily Bartley got
on very well with them. In spite of the assumption of equality between all
classes in Equity, they stood in secret awe of his personal splendor, and
the tradition of his achievements at college and in the great world; and
a flattering joke or a sharp sarcasm from him went a great way with them.
Besides, he had an efficient lieutenant in Henry Bird, the young printer
who had picked up his trade in the office, and who acted as Bartley's
foreman, so far as the establishment had an organization. Bird had industry
and discipline which were contagious, and that love of his work which is
said to be growing rare among artisans in the modern subdivision of trades.
This boy--for he was only nineteen--worked at his craft early and late out
of pleasure in it. He seemed one of those simple, subordinate natures which
are happy in looking up to whatever assumes to be above them. He exulted to
serve in a world where most people prefer to be served, and it is uncertain
whether he liked his work better for its own sake, or Bartley's, for whom
he did it. He was slight and rather delicate in health, and it came natural
for Bartley to patronize him. He took him on the long walks of which he was
fond, and made him in some sort his humble confidant, talking to him of
himself and his plans with large and braggart vagueness. He depended upon
Bird in a great many things, and Bird never failed him; for he had a
basis of constancy that was immovable. "No," said a philosopher from a
neighboring logging-camp, who used to hang about the printing-office a long
time after he had got his paper, "there aint a great deal of natural git up
and howl about Henry; but he stays put." In the confidences which Bartley
used to make Bird, he promised that, when he left the newspaper for the
law, he would see that no one else succeeded him. The young fellow did not
need this promise to make him Bartley's fast friend, but it colored his
affection with ambitious enthusiasm; to edit and publish a newspaper,--his
dreams did not go beyond that: to devote it to Bartley's interest in the
political life on which Bartley often hinted he might enter,--that would be
the sweetest privilege of realized success. Bird already wrote paragraphs
for the Free Press, and Bartley let him make up a column of news from the
city exchanges, which was partly written and partly selected.

Bartley came to the office rather late on Monday morning, bringing with him
the papers from Saturday night's mail, which had lain unopened over
Sunday, and went directly into his own room, without looking into the
printing-office. He felt feverish and irritable, and he resolved to fill up
with selections and let his editorial paragraphing go, or get Bird to do
it. He was tired of the work, and sick of Equity; Marcia's face seemed to
look sadly in upon his angry discontent, and he no longer wished to go to
her for sympathy. His door opened, and, without glancing from the newspaper
which he held up before him, he asked, "What is it, Bird? Do you want
copy?"

"Well, no, Mr. Hubbard," answered Bird, "we have copy enough for the force
we've got this morning."

"Why, what's up?" demanded Bartley, dropping his paper.

"Lizzie Sawyer has sent word that she is sick, and we haven't heard or seen
anything of Hannah Morrison."

"Confound the girls!" said Bartley, "there's always something the matter
with them." He rubbed his hand over his forehead, as if to rub out the dull
pain there. "Well," he said, "I must go to work myself, then." He rose,
and took hold of the lapels of his coat, to pull it off; but something in
Bird's look arrested him. "What is it?" he asked.

"Old Morrison was here, just before you came in, and said he wanted to see
you. I think he was drunk," said Bird, anxiously. "He said he was coming
back again."

"All right; let him come," replied Bartley. "This is a free
country,--especially in Equity. I suppose he wants Hannah's wages raised,
as usual. How much are we behind on the paper, Henry?"

"We're not a great deal behind, Mr. Hubbard, if we were not so
weak-handed."

"Perhaps we can get Hannah back, during the forenoon. At any rate, we can
ask her honored parent when he comes."

Where Morrison got his liquor was a question that agitated Equity from time
to time, and baffled the officer of the law empowered to see that no strong
drink came into the town. Under conditions which made it impossible even in
the logging-camps, and rendered the sale of spirits too precarious for the
apothecary, who might be supposed to deal in them medicinally, Morrison
never failed of his spree when the mysterious mechanism of his appetite
enforced it. Probably it was some form of bedevilled cider that supplied
the material of his debauch; but even cider was not easily to be had.

Morrison's spree was a movable feast, and recurred at irregular intervals
of two, or three, or even six weeks; but it recurred often enough to keep
him poor, and his family in a social outlawry against which the kindly
instincts of their neighbors struggled in vain. Mrs. Morrison was that
pariah who, in a village like Equity, cuts herself off from hope by taking
in washing; and it was a decided rise in the world for Hannah, a wild girl
at school, to get a place in the printing-office. Her father had applied
for it humbly enough at the tremulous and penitent close of one of his long
sprees, and was grateful to Bartley for taking the special interest in her
which she reported at home.

But the independence of a drunken shoemaker is proverbial, and Morrison's
meek spirit soared into lordly arrogance with his earliest cups. The
first warning which the community had of his change of attitude was
the conspicuous and even defiant closure of his shop, and the scornful
rejection of custom, however urgent or necessitous. All Equity might go in
broken shoes, for any patching or half-soling the people got from him. He
went about collecting his small dues, and paying up his debts as long as
the money lasted, in token of his resolution not to take any favors from
any man thereafter. Then he retired to his house on one of the by streets,
and by degrees drank himself past active offence. It was of course in his
defiant humor that he came to visit Bartley, who had learned to expect
him whenever Hannah failed to appear promptly at her work. The affair was
always easily arranged. Bartley instantly assented, with whatever irony he
liked, to Morrison's demands; he refused with overwhelming politeness even
to permit him to give himself the trouble to support them by argument; he
complimented Hannah inordinately as one of the most gifted and accomplished
ladies of his acquaintance, and inquired affectionately after the health
of each member of the Morrison family. When Morrison rose to go he always
said, in shaking hands, "Well, sir, if there was more like you in Equity
a poor man could get along. You're a gentleman, sir." After getting some
paces away from the street door, he stumbled back up the stairs to repeat,
"You're a gentleman!" Hannah came during the day, and the wages remained
the same: neither of the contracting parties regarded the increase so
elaborately agreed upon, and Morrison, on becoming sober, gratefully
ignored the whole transaction, though, by a curious juggle of his brain, he
recurred to it in his next spree, and advanced in his new demand from the
last rise: his daughter was now nominally in receipt of an income of forty
dollars a week, but actually accepted four.

Bartley, on his part, enjoyed the business as an agreeable excitement and
a welcome relief from the monotony of his official life. He never hurried
Morrison's visits, but amused himself by treating him with the most
flattering distinction, and baffling his arrogance by immediate concession.
But this morning, when Morrison came back with a front of uncommon
fierceness, he merely looked up from his newspapers, to which he had
recurred, and said coolly. "Oh, Mr. Morrison! Good morning. I suppose it's
that little advance that you wish to see me about. Take a chair. What is
the increase you ask this time? Of course I agree to anything."

He leaned forward, pencil in hand, to make a note of the figure Morrison
should name, when the drunkard approached and struck the table in front of
him with his fist, and blazed upon Bartley's face, suddenly uplifted, with
his blue crazy eyes:

"No, sir! I won't take a seat, and I don't come on no such business! No,
sir!" He struck the table again, and the violence of his blow upset the
inkstand.

Bartley saved himself by suddenly springing away. "Hollo here!" he shouted.
"What do you mean by this infernal nonsense?"

"What do _you_ mean," retorted the drunkard, "by makin' up to my girl?"

"You're a fool," cried Bartley, "and drunk!"

"I'll show you whether I'm a fool, and I'll show you whether I'm drunk,"
said Morrison. He opened the door and beckoned to Bird, with an air of
mysterious authority. "Young man! Come here!"

Bird was used to the indulgence with which Bartley treated Morrison's tipsy
freaks, and supposed that he had been called by his consent to witness
another agreement to a rise in Hannah's wages. He came quickly, to help
get Morrison out of the way the sooner, and he was astonished to be met by
Bartley with "I don't want you, Bird."

"All right," answered the boy, and he turned to go out of the door.

But Morrison had planted himself against it, and waved Bird austerely
back. "_I_ want you," he said, with drunken impressiveness, "for a
witness--wick--witness--while I ask Mr. Hubbard what he means by--"

"Hold your tongue!" cried Bartley. "Get out of this!" He advanced a pace or
two toward Morrison who stood his ground without swerving.

"Now you--you keep quiet, Mr. Hubbard," said Morrison, with a swift drunken
change of mood, by which he passed from arrogant denunciation to a smooth,
patronizing mastery of the situation. "_I_ wish this thing all settled
amic--ic--amelcabilly."

Bartley broke into a helpless laugh at Morrison's final failure on a word
difficult to sober tongues, and the latter went on: "No 'casion for bad
feeling on either side. All I want know is what you mean."

"Well, go on!" cried Bartley, good-naturedly, and he sat down in his chair,
which he tilted back, and, clasping his hands behind his head, looked up
into Morrison's face. "What do I mean by what?"

Probably Morrison had not expected to be categorical, or to bring anything
like a bill of particulars against Bartley, and this demand gave him pause.
"What you mean," he said, at last, "by always praising her up so?"

"What I said. She's a very good girl, and a very bright one. You don't deny
that?"

"No--no matter what I deny. What--what you lend her all them books for?"

"To improve her mind. You don't object to that? I thought you once thanked
me for taking an interest in her."

"Don't you mind what I object to, and what I thank you for," said Morrison,
with dignity. "I know what I'm about."

"I begin to doubt. But get on. I'm in a great hurry this morning," said
Bartley.

Morrison seemed to be making a mental examination of his stock of charges,
while the strain of keeping his upright position began to tell upon him,
and he swayed to and fro against the door. "What's that word you sent her
by my boy, Sat'day night?"

"That she was a smart girl, and would be sure to get on if she was good--or
words to that effect. I trust there was no offence in that, Mr. Morrison?"

Morrison surrendered, himself to another season of cogitation, in which he
probably found his vagueness growing upon him. He ended by fumbling in all
his pockets, and bringing up from the last a crumpled scrap of paper. "What
you--what you say that?"

Bartley took the extended scrap with an easy air. "Miss Morrison's
handwriting, I think." He held it up before him and read aloud, "'I love my
love with an H because he is Handsome.' This appears to be a confidence of
Miss Morrison to her Muse. Whom do you think she refers to, Mr. Morrison?"

"What's--what's the first letter your name?" demanded Morrison, with an
effort to collect his dispersing severity.

"B," promptly replied Bartley. "Perhaps this concerns you, Henry. Your name
begins with an H." He passed the paper up over his head to Bird, who took
it silently. "You see," he continued, addressing Bird, but looking at
Morrison as he spoke, "Mr. Morrison wishes to convict me of an attempt upon
Miss Hannah's affections. Have you anything else to urge, Mr. Morrison?"

Morrison slid at last from his difficult position into a convenient chair,
and struggled to keep himself from doubling forward. "I want know what you
mean," he said, with dogged iteration.

"I'll show you what I mean," said Bartley with an ugly quiet, while his
mustache began to twitch. He sprang to his feet and seized Morrison by
the collar, pulling him up out of the chair till he held him clear of the
floor, and opened the door with his other hand. "Don't show your face here
again,--you or your girl either!" Still holding the man by the collar, he
pushed him before him through the office, and gave him a final thust out of
the outer door.

Bartley returned to his room in a white heat: "Miserable tipsy rascal!" he
panted; "I wonder who has set him on to this thing."

Bird stood pale and silent, still, nolding the crumpled scrap of paper in
his hand.

"I shouldn't be surprised if that impudent little witch herself had put him
up to it. She's capable of it," said Bartley, fumbling aimlessly about on
his table, in his wrath, without looking at Bird.

"It's a lie!" said Bird.

Bartley started as if the other had struck him, and as he glared at Bird
the anger went out of his face for pure amazement. "Are you out of your
mind, Henry?" he asked calmly. "Perhaps you're drunk too, this morning. The
Devil seems to have got into pretty much everybody."

"It's a lie!" repeated the boy, while the tears sprang to his eyes. "She's
as good a girl as Marcia Gaylord is, any day!"

"Better go away, Henry," said Bartley, with a deadly sort of gentleness.

"I'm going away," answered the boy, his face twisted with weeping. "I've
done my last day's work for _you_." He pulled down his shirt-sleeves,
and buttoned them at the wrists, while the tears ran out over his
face,--helpless tears, the sign of his womanish tenderness, his womanish
weakness.

Bartley continued to glare at him. "Why, I do believe you're in love with
her yourself, you little fool!"

"Oh, I've _been_ a fool!" cried Bird. "A fool to think as much of you as
I always have,--a fool to believe that you were a gentleman, and wouldn't
take a mean advantage. I was a fool to suppose you wanted to do her any
good, when you came praising and flattering her, and turning her head!"

"Well, then," said Bartley with harsh insolence, "don't be a fool any
longer. If you're in love with her, you haven't any quarrel with me, my
boy. She flies at higher game than humble newspaper editors. The head of
Willett's lumbering gang is your man; and so you may go and tell that old
sot, her father. Why, Henry! You don't mean to say you care anything for
that girl?"

"And do you mean to say you haven't done everything you could to turn her
head since she's been in this office? She used to like me well enough at
school." All men are blind and jealous children alike, when it comes to
question of a woman between them, and this poor boy's passion was turning
him into a tiger. "Don't come to _me_ with your lies, any more!" Here his
rage culminated, and with a blind cry of "Ay!" he struck the paper which he
had kept in his hand into Bartley's face.

The demons, whatever they were, of anger, remorse, pride, shame, were at
work in Bartley's heart too, and he returned the blow as instantly as if
Bird's touch had set the mechanism of his arm in motion. In contempt of
the other's weakness he struck with the flat of his hand; but the blow was
enough. Bird fell headlong, and the concussion of his head upon the floor
did the rest. He lay senseless.



VII.


Bartley hung over the boy with such a terror in his soul as he had never
had before. He believed that he had killed him, and in this conviction came
with the simultaneity of events in dreams the sense of all his blame, of
which the blow given for a blow seemed the least part. He was not so wrong
in that as he was wrong in what led to it. He did not abhor in himself so
much the wretch who had struck his brother down as the light and empty fool
who had trifled with that silly hoyden. The follies that seemed so amusing
and resultless in their time had ripened to this bitter effect, and he knew
that he, and not she, was mainly culpable. Her self-betrayal, however it
came about, was proof that they were more serious with her than with him,
and he could not plead to himself even the poor excuse that his fancy
had been caught. Amidst the anguish of his self-condemnation the need to
conceal what he had done occurred to him. He had been holding Bird's head
in his arms, and imploring him, "Henry! Henry! wake up!" in a low, husky
voice; but now he turned to the door and locked it, and the lie by which he
should escape sprang to his tongue. "He died in a fit." He almost believed
it as it murmured itself from his lips. There was no mark, no bruise,
nothing to show that he had touched the boy. Suddenly he felt the lie choke
him. He pulled down the window to let in the fresh air, and this pure
breath of heaven blew into his darkened spirit and lifted there a little
the vapors which were thickening in it. The horror of having to tell that
lie, even if he should escape by it, all his life long, till he was a gray
old man, and to keep the truth forever from his lips, presented itself to
him as intolerable slavery. "Oh, my God!" he spoke aloud, "how can I bear
that?" And it was in self-pity that he revolted from it. Few men love the
truth for its own sake, and Bartley was not one of these; but he practised
it because his experience had been that lies were difficult to manage, and
that they were a burden on the mind. He was not candid; he did not shun
concealments and evasions; but positive lies he had kept from, and now he
could not trust one to save his life. He unlocked the door and ran out to
find help; he must do that at last; he must do it at any risk; no matter
what he said afterward. When our deeds and motives come to be balanced at
the last day, let us hope that mercy, and not justice, may prevail.

It must have been mercy that sent the doctor at that moment to the
apothecary's, on the other side of the street, and enabled Bartley to get
him up into his office, without publicity or explanation other than that
Henry Bird seemed to be in a fit. The doctor lifted the boy's head, and
explored his bosom with his hand.

"Is he--is he dead?" gasped Bartley, and the words came so mechanically
from his tongue that he began to believe he had not spoken them, when the
doctor answered.

"No! How did this happen? Tell me exactly."

"We had a quarrel. He struck me. I knocked him down." Bartley delivered up
the truth, as a prisoner of war--or a captive brigand, perhaps--parts with
his weapons one by one.

"Very well," said the doctor. "Get some water."

Bartley poured some out of the pitcher on his table, and the doctor,
wetting his handkerchief, drew it again and again over Bird's forehead.

"I never meant to hurt him," said Bartley. "I didn't even intend to strike
him when he hit me."

"Intentions have very little to do with physical effects," replied the
doctor sharply. "Henry!"

The boy opened his eyes, and, muttering feebly, "My head!" closed them
again.

"There's a concussion here," said the doctor. "We had better get him home.
Drive my sleigh over, will you, from Smith's."

Bartley went out into the glare of the sun, which beat upon him like the
eye of the world. But the street was really empty, as it often was in the
middle of the forenoon at Equity. The apothecary, who saw him untying the
doctor's horse, came to his door, and said jocosely, "Hello, Doc! who's
sick?"

"I am," said Bartley, solemnly, and the apothecary laughed at his
readiness. Bartley drove round to the back of the printing-office, where
the farmers delivered his wood. "I thought we could get him out better
that way," he explained, and the doctor, who had to befriend a great many
concealments in his practice, silently spared Bartley's disingenuousness.

The rush of the cold air, as they drove rapidly down the street, with that
limp shape between them, revived the boy, and he opened his eyes, and made
an effort to hold himself erect, but he could not; and when they got him
into the warm room at home, he fainted again. His mother had met them at
the door of her poor little house, without any demonstration of grief or
terror; she was far too well acquainted in her widowhood--bereft of all her
children but this son--with sickness and death, to show even surprise, if
she felt it. When Bartley broke out into his lamentable confession, "Oh,
Mrs. Bird! this is _my_ work!" she only wrung her hands and answered,
"_Your_ work! Oh, Mr. Hubbard, he thought the world of _you_!" and did not
ask him how or why he had done it. After they had got Henry on the bed,
Bartley was no longer of use there; but they let him remain in the corner
into which he had shrunk, and from which he watched all that went on, with
a dry mouth and faltering breath. It began to appear to him that he was
very young to be involved in a misfortune like this; he did not understand
why it should have happened to him; but he promised himself that, if Henry
lived, he would try to be a better man in every way.

After he had lost all hope, the time seemed so long, the boy on the bed
opened his eyes once more, and looked round, while Bartley still sat with
his face in his hands. "Where--where is Mr. Hubbard?" he faintly asked,
with a bewildered look at his mother and the doctor.

Bartley heard the weak voice, and staggered forward, and fell on his
knees beside the bed. "Here, here! Here I am, Henry! Oh, Henry, I didn't
intend--" He stopped at the word, and hid his face in the coverlet.

The boy lay as if trying to make out what had happened, and the doctor told
him that he had fainted. After a time, he put out his hand and laid it on
Bartley's head. "Yes; but I don't understand what makes him cry."

They looked at Bartley, who had lifted his head, and he went over the whole
affair, except so far as it related to Hannah Morrison; he did not spare
himself; he had often found that strenuous self-condemnation moved others
to compassion; and besides, it was his nature to seek the relief of full
confession. But Henry heard him through with a blank countenance. "Don't
you remember?" Bartley implored at last.

"No, I don't remember. I only remember that there seemed to be something
the matter with my head this morning."

"That was the trouble with me, too," said Bartley. "I must have been
crazy--I must have been insane--when I struck you. I can't account for it."

"I don't remember it," answered the boy.

"That's all right," said the doctor. "Don't try. I guess you better let him
alone, now," he added to Bartley, with such a significant look that the
young man retired from the bedside, and stood awkwardly apart. "He'll get
along. You needn't be anxious about leaving him. He'll be better alone."

There was no mistaking this hint. "Well, well!" said Bartley, humbly, "I'll
go. But I'd rather stay and watch with him,--I sha'n't eat or sleep till
he's on foot again. And I can't leave till you tell me that you forgive me,
Mrs. Bird. I never dreamed--I didn't intend--" He could not go on.

"I don't suppose you meant to hurt Henry," said the mother. "You always
pretended to be so fond of him, and he thought the world of you. But I
don't see how you could do it. I presume it was all right."

"No, it was all wrong,--or so nearly all wrong that I must ask your
forgiveness on that ground. I loved him,--I thought the world of him, too.
I'd ten thousand times rather have hurt myself," pleaded Bartley. "Don't
let me go till you say that you forgive me."

"I'll see how Henry gets along," said Mrs. Bird. "I don't know as I
could rightly say I forgive you just yet." Doubtless she was dealing
conscientiously with herself and with him. "I like to be sure of a thing
when I say it," she added.

The doctor followed him into the hall, and Bartley could not help turning
to him for consolation. "I think Mrs. Bird is very unjust, Doctor. I've
done everything I could, and said everything to explain the matter; and
I've blamed myself where I can't feel that I was to blame; and yet you see
how she holds out against me."

"I dare say," answered the doctor dryly, "she'll feel differently, as she
says, if the boy gets along."

Bartley dropped his hat to the floor. "Get along! Why--why you think he'll
get well _now_, don't you, Doctor?"

"Oh, yes; I was merely using her words. He'll get well."

"And--and it wont affect his mind, will it? I thought it was very strange,
his not remembering anything about it--"

"That's a very common phenomenon," said the doctor. "The patient usually
forgets everything that occurred for some little time before the accident,
in cases of concussion of the brain." Bartley shuddered at the phrase, but
he could not ask anything further. "What I wanted to say to you," continued
the doctor, "was that this may be a long thing, and there may have to be
an inquiry into it. You're lawyer enough to understand what that means. I
should have to testify to what I know, and I only know what you told me."

"Why, you don't doubt--"

"No, sir; I've no reason to suppose you haven't told me the truth, as far
as it goes. If you have thought it advisable to keep anything back from me,
you may wish to tell the whole story to an attorney."

"I haven't kept anything back, Doctor Wills," said Bartley. "I've told
you everything--everything that concerned the quarrel. That drunken old
scoundrel of a Morrison got us into it. He accused me of making love to his
daughter; and Henry was jealous--I never knew he cared anything for her. I
hated to tell you this before his mother. But this is the whole truth, so
help me God."

"I supposed it was something of the kind," replied the doctor. "I'm sorry
for you. You can't keep it from having an ugly look if it gets out; and it
may have to be made public. I advise you to go and see Squire Gaylord; he's
always stood your friend."

"I--I was just going there," said Bartley; and this was true.

Through all, he had felt the need of some sort of retrieval,--of
re-establishing himself in his own esteem by some signal stroke; and he
could think of but one thing. It was not his fault if he believed that
this must combine self-sacrifice with safety, and the greatest degree of
humiliation with the largest sum of consolation. He was none the less
resolved not to spare himself at all in offering to release Marcia from her
engagement. The fact that he must now also see her father upon the legal
aspect of his case certainly complicated the affair, and detracted from
its heroic quality. He could not tell which to see first, for he naturally
wished his action to look as well as possible; and if he went first to
Marcia, and she condemned him, he did not know in what figure he should
approach her father. If, on the other hand, he went first to Squire
Gaylord, the old lawyer might insist that the engagement was already at an
end by Bartley's violent act, and might well refuse to let a man in his
position even see his daughter. He lagged heavy-heartedly up the middle of
the street, and left the question to solve itself at the last moment. But
when he reached Squire Gaylord's gate, it seemed to him that it would be
easier to face the father first; and this would be the right way too.

He turned aside to the little office, and opened the door without knocking,
and as he stood with the knob in his hand, trying to habituate his eyes,
full of the snow-glare, to the dimmer light within, he heard a rapturous
cry of "Why Bartley!" and he felt Marcia's arms flung around his neck. His
burdened heart yearned upon her with a tenderness he had not known before;
he realized the preciousness of an embrace that might be the last; but he
dared not put down his lips to hers. She pushed back her head in a little
wonder, and saw the haggardness of his face, while he discovered her father
looking at them. How strong and pure the fire in her must be when her
father's presence could not abash her from this betrayal of her love!
Bartley sickened, and he felt her arms slip from his neck. "Why--why--what
is the matter?"

In spite of some vaguely magnanimous intention to begin at the beginning,
and tell the whole affair just as it happened, Bartley found himself
wishing to put the best face on it at first, and trust to chances to make
it all appear well. He did not speak at once, and Marcia pressed him into
a chair, and then, like an eager child, who will not let its friend escape
till it has been told what it wishes to know, she set herself on his knee,
and put her hand on his shoulder. He looked at her father, not at her,
while he spoke hoarsely: "I have had trouble with Henry Bird, Squire
Gaylord, and I've come to tell you about it."

The old squire did not speak, but Marcia repeated in amazement, "With Henry
Bird?"

"He struck me--"

"Henry Bird _struck_ you!" cried the girl. "I should like to know why
Henry Bird struck _you_, when you've made so much of him, and he's always
pretended to be so grateful--"

Bartley still looked at her father. "And I struck him back."

"You did perfectly right, Bartley," exclaimed Marcia, "and I should have
despised you if you had let any one run over you. Struck you! I declare--"

He did not heed her, but continued to look at her father. "I didn't intend
to hurt him,--I hit him with my open hand,--but he fell and struck his head
on the floor. I'm afraid it hurt him pretty badly." He felt the pang that
thrilled through the girl at his words, and her hand trembled on his
shoulder; but she did not take it away.

The old man came forward from the pile of books which he and Marcia had
been dusting, and sat down in a chair on the other side of the stove. He
pushed back his hat from his forehead, and asked drily, "What commenced
it?"

Bartley hesitated. It was this part of the affair which he would rather
have imparted to Marcia after seeing it with her father's eyes, or
possibly, if her father viewed it favorably, have had him tell her. The old
man noticed his reluctance. "Hadn't you better go into the house, Marsh?"

She merely gave him a look of utter astonishment for answer, and did not
move. He laughed noiselessly, and said to Bartley, "Go on."

"It was that drunken old scoundrel of a Morrison who began it!" cried
Bartley, in angry desperation. Marcia dropped her hand from his shoulder,
while her father worked his jaws upon the bit of stick he had picked up
from the pile of wood, and put between his teeth. "You know that whenever
he gets on a spree he comes to the office and wants Hannah's wages raised."

Marcia sprang to her feet. "Oh, I knew it! I knew it! I told you she would
get you into trouble! I told you so!" She stood clinching her hands,
and her father bent his keen scrutiny first upon her, and then upon the
frowning face with which Bartley regarded her.

"Did he come to have her wages raised to-day?"

"No."

"What did he come for?" He involuntarily assumed the attitude of a lawyer
crossquestioning a slippery witness.

"He came for--He came--He accused me of--He said I had--made love to his
confounded girl."

Marcia gasped.

"What made him think you had?"

"It wasn't necessary for him to have any reason. He was drunk. I had been
kind to the girl, and favored her all I could, because she seemed to be
anxious to do her work well; and I praised her for trying."

"Um-umph," commented the Squire. "And that made Henry Bird jealous?"

"It seems that he was fond of her. I never dreamed of such a thing, and
when I put old Morrison out of the office, and came back, he called me a
liar, and struck me in the face." He did not lift his eyes to the level of
Marcia's, who in her gray dress stood there like a gray shadow, and did not
stir or speak.

"And you never had made up to the girl at all?"

"No."

"Kissed her, I suppose, now and then?" suggested the Squire.

Bartley did not reply.

"Flattered her up, and told how much you thought of her, occasionally?"

"I don't see what that has to do with it," said Bartley with a sulky
defiance.

"No, I suppose it's what you'd do with most any pretty girl," returned the
Squire. He was silent awhile. "And so you knocked Henry down. What happened
then?"

"I tried to bring him to, and then I went for the doctor. He revived, and
we got him home to his mother's. The doctor says he will get well; but he
advised me to come and see you."

"Any witnesses of the assault?"

"No; we were alone in my own room."

"Told any one else about it?"

"I told the doctor and Mrs. Bird. Henry couldn't remember it at all."

"Couldn't remember about Morrison, or what made him mad at you?"

"Nothing."

"And that's all about it?"

"Yes."

The two men had talked across the stove at each other, practically ignoring
the girl, who stood apart from them, gray in the face as her dress, and
suppressing a passion which had turned her as rigid as stone.

"Now, Marcia," said her father, kindly, "better go into the house. That's
all there is of it."

"No, that isn't all," she answered. "Give me my ring, Bartley. Here's
yours." She slipped it off her finger, and put it into his mechanically
extended hand.

"Marcia!" he implored, confronting her.

"Give me my ring, please."

He obeyed, and put it into her hand. She slipped it back on the finger from
which she had so fondly suffered him to take it yesterday, and replace it
with his own.

"I'll go into the house now, father. Good by, Bartley." Her eyes were
perfectly clear and dry, and her voice controlled; and as he stood passive
before her, she took him round the neck, and pressed against his face,
once, and twice, and thrice, her own gray face, in which all love, and
unrelenting, and despair, were painted. Once and again she held him, and
looked him in the eyes, as if to be sure it was he. Then, with a last
pressure of her face to his, she released him, and passed out of the door.

"She's been talking about you, here, all the morning," said the Squire,
with a sort of quiet absence, as if nothing in particular had happened, and
he were commenting on a little fact that might possibly interest Bartley.
He ruminated upon the fragment of wood in his mouth awhile before he added:
"I guess she won't want to talk about you any more. I drew you out a little
on that Hannah Morrison business, because I wanted her to understand just
what kind of fellow you were. You see it isn't the trouble you've got into
with Henry Bird that's killed her; it's the cause of the trouble. I guess
if it had been anything else, she'd have stood by you. But you see that's
the one thing she couldn't bear, and I'm glad it's happened now instead of
afterwards: I guess you're one of that _kind_, Mr. Hubbard."

"Squire Gaylord!" cried Bartley, "upon my sacred word of honor, there isn't
any more of this thing than I've told you. And I think it's pretty hard to
be thrown over for--for--"

"Fooling with a pretty girl, when you get a chance, and the girl seems to
like it? Yes, it _is_ rather hard. And I suppose you haven't even seen her
since you were engaged to Marcia?"

"Of course not! That is--"

"It's a kind of retroactive legislation on Marcia's part," said the Squire,
rubbing his chin, "and that's against one of the first principles of law.
But women don't seem to be able to grasp that idea. They're queer about
some things. They appear to think they marry a man's whole life,--his past
as well as his future,--and that makes 'em particular. And they distinguish
between different kinds of men. You'll find 'em pinning their faith to a
fellow who's been through pretty much everything, and swearing by him from
the word go; and another chap, who's never _done_ anything very bad, they
won't trust half a minute out of their sight. Well, I guess Marcia _is_ of
rather a jealous disposition," he concluded, as if Bartley had urged this
point.

"She's very unjust to me," Bartley began.

"Oh, yes,--she's _unjust_," said her father. "I don't deny that. But it
wouldn't be any use talking to her. She'd probably turn round with some
excuse about what she had suffered, and that would be the end of it. She
would say that she couldn't go through it again. Well, it ought to be a
comfort to you to think you don't care a great deal about it."

"But I _do_ care!" exclaimed Bartley. "I care all the world for it. I--"

"Since when?" interrupted the Squire. "Do you mean to say that you didn't
know till you asked her yesterday that Marcia was in love with you?"

Bartley was silent.

"I guess you knew it as much as a year ago, didn't you? Everybody else did.
But you'd just as soon it had been Hannah Morrison, or any other pretty
girl. _You_ didn't care! But Marcia did, you see. She wasn't one of the
kind that let any good-looking fellow make love to them. It was because
it was _you_; and you knew it. We're plain men, Mr. Hubbard; and I guess
you'll get over this, in time. I shouldn't wonder if you began to mend,
right away."

Bartley found himself helpless in the face of this passionless sarcasm. He
could have met stormy indignation or any sort of invective in kind; but
the contemptuous irony with which his pretensions were treated, the cold
scrutiny with which his motives were searched, was something he could not
meet. He tried to pull himself together for some sort of protest, but
he ended by hanging his head in silence. He always believed that Squire
Gaylord had liked him, and here he was treating him like his bitterest
enemy, and seeming to enjoy his misery. He could not understand it; he
thought it extremely unjust, and past all the measure of his offence. This
was true, perhaps: but it is doubtful if Bartley would have accepted
any suffering, no matter how nicely proportioned, in punishment of his
wrong-doing. He sat hanging his head, and taking his pain in rebellious
silence, with a gathering hate in his heart for the old man.

"M-well!" said the Squire, at last, rising from his chair, "I guess I must
be going."

Bartley sprang to his feet aghast. "You're not going to leave me in the
lurch, are you? You're not--"

"Oh, I shall take care of you, young man,--don't be afraid. I've stood your
friend too long, and your name's been mixed up too much with my girl's, for
me to let you come to shame openly, if I can help it. I'm going to see Dr.
Wills about you, and I'm going to see Mrs. Bird, and try to patch it up
somehow."

"And--and--where shall I go?" gasped Bartley.

"You might go to the Devil, for all I cared for you," said the old man,
with the contempt which he no longer cared to make ironical. "But I guess
you better go back to your office, and go to work as if nothing had
happened--till something does happen. I shall close the paper out as soon
as I can. I was thinking of doing that just before you came in. I was
thinking of taking you into the law business with me. Marcia and I were
talking about it here. But I guess you wouldn't like the idea now."

He seemed to get a bitter satisfaction out of these mockeries, from which,
indeed, he must have suffered quite as much as Bartley. But he ended, sadly
and almost compassionately, with, "Come, come! You must start some time."
And Bartley dragged his leaden weight out of the door. The Squire closed it
after him; but he did not accompany him down the street. It was plain that
he did not wish to be any longer alone with Bartley, and the young man
suspected, with a sting of shame, that he scorned to be seen with him.



VIII.


The more Bartley dwelt upon his hard case, during the week that followed,
the more it appeared to him that he was punished out of all proportion to
his offence. He was in no mood to consider such mercies as that he had been
spared from seriously hurting Bird; and that Squire Gaylord and Doctor
Wills had united with Henry's mother in saving him from open disgrace. The
physician, indeed, had perhaps indulged a professional passion for hushing
the matter up, rather than any pity for Bartley. He probably had the
scientific way of looking at such questions; and saw much physical cause
for moral effects. He refrained, with the physician's reticence, from
inquiring into the affair; but he would not have thought Bartley without
excuse under the circumstances. In regard to the relative culpability in
matters of the kind, his knowledge of women enabled him to take much the
view of the woman's share that other women take.

But Bartley was ignorant of the doctor's leniency, and associated him with
Squire Gaylord in the feeling that made his last week in Equity a period of
social outlawry. There were moments in which he could not himself escape
the same point of view. He could rebel against the severity of the
condemnation he had fallen under in the eyes of Marcia and her father; he
could, in the light of example and usage, laugh at the notion of harm in
his behavior to Hannah Morrison; yet he found himself looking at it as a
treachery to Marcia. Certainly, she had no right to question his conduct
before his engagement. Yet, if he knew that Marcia loved him, and was
waiting with life-and-death anxiety for some word of love from him, it was
cruelly false to play with another at the passion which was such a tragedy
to her. This was the point that, put aside however often, still presented
itself, and its recurrence, if he could have known it, was mercy and
reprieve from the only source out of which these could come.

Hannah Morrison did not return to the printing-office, and Bird was still
sick, though it was now only a question of time when he should be out
again. Bartley visited him some hours every day, and sat and suffered under
the quiet condemnation of his mother's eyes. She had kept Bartley's secret
with the same hardness with which she had refused him her forgiveness, and
the village had settled down into an ostensible acceptance of the theory of
a faint as the beginning of Bird's sickness, with such other conjectures
as the doctor freely permitted each to form. Bartley found his chief
consolation in the work which kept him out of the way of a great deal of
question. He worked far into the night, as he must, to make up for the
force that was withdrawn from the office. At the same time he wrote more
than ever in the paper, and he discovered in himself that dual life of
which every one who sins or sorrows is sooner or later aware: that strange
separation of the intellectual activity from the suffering of the soul, by
which the mind toils on in a sort of ironical indifference to the pangs
that wring the heart; the realization that, in some ways, his brain can get
on perfectly well without his conscience.

There was a great deal of sympathy felt for Bartley at this time, and his
popularity in Equity was never greater than now when his life there was
drawing to a close. The spectacle of his diligence was so impressive that
when, on the following Sunday, the young minister who had succeeded to the
pulpit of the orthodox church preached a sermon on the beauty of industry
from the text "Consider the lilies," there were many who said that they
thought of Bartley the whole while, and one--a lady--asked Mr. Savin if
he did not have Mr. Hubbard in mind in the picture he drew of the Heroic
Worker. They wished that Bartley could have heard that sermon.

Marcia had gone away early in the week to visit in the town where she used
to go to school, and Bartley took her going away as a sign that she wished
to put herself wholly beyond his reach, or any danger of relenting at sight
of him. He talked with no one about her; and going and coming irregularly
to his meals, and keeping himself shut up in his room when he was not
at work, he left people very little chance to talk with him. But they
conjectured that he and Marcia had an understanding; and some of the ladies
used such scant opportunity as he gave them to make sly allusions to her
absence and his desolate condition. They were confirmed in their surmise by
the fact, known from actual observation, that Bartley had not spoken a word
to any other young lady since Marcia went away.

"Look here, my friend," said the philosopher from, the logging-camp, when
he came in for his paper on the Tuesday afternoon following, "seems to me
from what I hear tell around here, you're tryin' to kill yourself on this
newspaper. Now, it won't do; I tell you it won't do."

Bartley was addressing for the mail the papers which one of the girls
was folding. "What are you going to do about it?" he demanded of his
sympathizer with whimsical sullenness, not troubling himself to look up at
him.

"Well, I haint exactly settled yet," replied the philosopher, who was of
a tall, lank figure, and of a mighty brown beard. "But I've been around
pretty much everywhere, and I find that about the poorest use you can put a
man to is to kill him."

"It depends a good deal on the man," said Bartley. "But that's stale,
Kinney. It's the old formula of the anti-capital-punishment fellows. Try
something else. They're not talking of hanging me yet." He kept on writing,
and the philosopher stood over him with a humorous twinkle of enjoyment at
Bartley's readiness.

"Well, I'll allow it's old," he admitted. "So's Homer."

"Yes; but you don't pretend that you wrote Homer."

Kinney laughed mightily; then he leaned forward, and slapped Bartley on the
shoulder with his newspaper. "Look here!" he exclaimed, "I _like_ you!"

"Oh, try some other tack! Lots of fellows like me." Bartley kept on
writing. "I gave you your paper, didn't I, Kinney?"

"You mean that you want me to get out?"

"Far be it from me to say so."

This delighted Kinney as much as the last refinement of hospitality would
have pleased another man. "Look here!" he said, "I want you should come out
and see our camp. I can't fool away any more time on you here; but I want
you should come out and see us. Give you something to write about. Hey?"

"The invitation comes at a time when circumstances over which I have no
control oblige me to decline it. I admire your prudence, Kinney."

"No, honest Injian, now," protested Kinney. "Take a day off, and fill up
with dead advertisements. That's the way they used to do out in Alkali City
when they got short of help on the Eagle, and we liked it just as well."

"Now you are talking sense," said Bartley, looking up at him. "How far is
it to your settlement?"

"Two miles, if you're goin'; three and a half, if you aint."

"When are you coming in?"

"I'm in, now."

"I can't go with you to-day."

"Well, how'll to-morrow morning suit?"

"To-morrow morning will suit," said Bartley.

"All right. If anybody comes to see the editor to-morrow morning, Marilla,"
said Kinney to the girl, "you tell 'em he's sick, and gone a-loggin', and
won't be back till Saturday. Say," he added, laying his hand on Bartley's
shoulder, "you aint foolin'?"

"If I am," replied Bartley, "just mention it."

"Good!" said Kinney. "To-morrow it is, then."

Bartley finished addressing the newspapers, and then he put them up in
wrappers and packages for the mail. "You can go, now, Marilla," he said to
the girl. "I'll leave some copy for you and Kitty; you'll find it on my
table in the morning."

"All right," answered the girl.

Bartley went to his supper, which he ate with more relish than he had
felt for his meals since his troubles began, and he took part in the
supper-table talk with something of his old audacity. The change interested
the lady boarders, and they agreed that he must have had a letter. He
returned to his office, and worked till nine o'clock, writing and selecting
matter out of his exchanges. He spent most of the time in preparing the
funny column, which was a favorite feature in the Free Press. Then he put
the copy where the girls would find it in the morning, and, leaving the
door unlocked, took his way up the street toward Squire Gaylord's.

He knew that he should find the lawyer in his office, and he opened the
office door without knocking, and went in. He had not met Squire Gaylord
since the morning of his dismissal, and the old man had left him for the
past eight days without any sign as to what he expected of Bartley, or of
what he intended to do in his affair.

They looked at each other, but exchanged no sort of greeting, as Bartley,
unbidden, took a chair on the opposite side of the stove; the Squire did
not put down the book he had been reading.

"I've come to see what you're going to do about the Free Press," said
Bartley.

The old man rubbed his bristling jaw, that seemed even lanker than when
Bartley saw it last. He waited almost a minute before he replied, "I don't
know as I've got any call to tell you."

"Then I'll tell you what _I'm_ going to do about it," retorted Bartley.
"I'm going to leave it. I've done my last day's work on that paper. Do you
think," he cried, angrily, "that I'm going to keep on in the dark, and let
you consult your pleasure as to my future? No, sir! You don't know your man
quite, Mr. Gaylord!"

"You've got over your scare," said the lawyer.

"I've got over my scare," Bartley retorted.

"And you think, because you're not afraid any longer, that you're out of
danger. I know my man as well as you do, I guess."

"If you think I care for the danger, I don't. You may do what you please.
Whatever you do, I shall know it isn't out of kindness for me. I didn't
believe from the first that the law could touch me, and I wasn't uneasy on
that account. But I didn't want to involve myself in a public scandal, for
Miss Gaylord's sake. Miss Gaylord has released me from any obligations to
her; and now you may go ahead and do what you like." Each of the men knew
how much truth there was in this; but for the moment in his anger, Bartley
believed himself sincere, and there is no question but his defiance was
so. Squire Gaylord made him no answer, and after a minute of expectation
Bartley added, "At any rate, I've done with the Free Press. I advise you to
stop the paper, and hand the office over to Henry Bird, when he gets about.
I'm going out to Willett's logging-camp tomorrow, and I'm coming back to
Equity on Saturday. You'll know where to find me till then, and after that
you may look me up if you want me."

He rose to go, but stopped with his hand on the door-knob, at a sound,
preliminary to speaking, which the old man made in his throat. Bartley
stopped, hoping for a further pretext of quarrel, but the lawyer merely
asked, "Where's the key?"

"It's in the office door."

The old man now looked at him as if he no longer saw him, and Bartley went
out, balked of his purpose in part, and in that degree so much the more
embittered.

Squire Gaylord remained an hour longer; then he blew out his lamp, and left
the little office for the night. A light was burning in the kitchen, and he
made his way round to the back door of the house, and let himself in. His
wife was there, sitting before the stove, in those last delicious moments
before going to bed, when all the house is mellowed to such a warmth that
it seems hard to leave it to the cold and dark. In this poor lady, who
had so long denied herself spiritual comfort, there was a certain obscure
luxury: she liked little dainties of the table; she liked soft warmth, an
easy cushion. It was doubtless in the disintegration of the finer qualities
of her nature, that, as they grew older together, she threw more and more
the burden of acute feeling upon her husband, to whose doctrine of life she
had submitted, but had never been reconciled. Marriage is, with all its
disparities, a much more equal thing than appears, and the meek little
wife, who has all the advantage of public sympathy, knows her power over
her oppressor, and at some tender spot in his affections or his nerves can
inflict an anguish that will avenge her for years of coarser aggression.
Thrown in upon herself in so vital a matter as her religion, Mrs. Gaylord
had involuntarily come to live largely for herself, though her talk was
always of her husband. She gave up for him, as she believed, her soul's
salvation, but she held him to account for the uttermost farthing of
the price. She padded herself round at every point where she could have
suffered through her sensibilities, and lived soft and snug in the shelter
of his iron will and indomitable courage. It was not apathy that she
had felt when their children died one after another, but an obscure and
formless exultation that Mr. Gaylord would suffer enough for both.

Marcia was the youngest, and her mother left her training almost wholly
to her father; she sometimes said that she never supposed the child would
live. She did not actually urge this in excuse, but she had the appearance
of doing so; and she held aloof from them both in their mutual relations,
with mildly critical reserves. They spoiled each other, as father and
daughter are apt to do when left to themselves. What was good in the child
certainly received no harm from his indulgence; and what was naughty was
after all not so very naughty. She was passionate, but she was generous;
and if she showed a jealous temperament that must hereafter make her
unhappy, for the time being it charmed and flattered her father to have her
so fond of him that she could not endure any rivalry in his affection.

Her education proceeded fitfully. He would not let her be forced to
household tasks that she disliked; and as a little girl she went to school
chiefly because she liked to go, and not because she would have been
obliged to it if she had not chosen. When she grew older, she wished to go
away to school, and her father allowed her; he had no great respect for
boarding-schools, but if Marcia wanted to try it, he was willing to humor
the joke.

What resulted was a great proficiency in the things that pleased her, and
ignorance of the other things. Her father bought her a piano, on which she
did not play much, and he bought her whatever dresses she fancied. He never
came home from a journey without bringing her something; and he liked to
take her with him when he went away to other places. She had been several
times at Portland, and once at Montreal; he was very proud of her; he could
not see that any one was better-looking, or dressed any better than his
girl.

He came into the kitchen, and sat down with his hat on, and, taking his
chin between his fingers, moved uneasily about on his chair.

"What's brought you in so early?" asked his wife.

"Well, I got through," he briefly explained. After a while he said,
"Bartley Hubbard's been out there."

"You don't mean 't he knew she--"

"No, he didn't know anything about that. He came to tell me he was going
away."

"Well, I don't know what you're going to do, Mr. Gaylord," said his wife,
shifting the responsibility wholly upon him. "'D he seem to want to make it
up?"

"M-no!" said the Squire, "he was on his high horse. He knows he aint in any
danger now."

"Aint you afraid she'll carry on dreadfully, when she finds out 't he's
gone for good?" asked Mrs. Gaylord, with a sort of implied satisfaction
that the carrying on was not to affect her.

"M-yes," said the Squire, "I suppose she'll carry on. But I don't know what
to do about it. Sometimes I almost wish I'd tried to make it up between 'em
that day; but I thought she'd better see, once for all, what sort of man
she was going in for, if she married him. It's too late now to do anything.
The fellow came in to-night for a quarrel, and nothing else; I could see
that; and I didn't give him any chance."

"You feel sure," asked Mrs. Gaylord, impartially, "that Marcia wa'n't too
particular?"

"No, Miranda, I don't feel sure of anything, except that it's past your
bed-time. You better go. I'll sit up awhile yet. I came in because I
couldn't settle my mind to anything out there."

He took off his hat in token of his intending to spend the rest of the
evening at home, and put it on the table at his elbow.

His wife sewed at the mending in her lap, without offering to act upon his
suggestion. "It's plain to be seen that she can't get along without him."

"She'll have to, now," replied the Squire.

"I'm afraid," said Mrs. Gaylord, softly, "that she'll be down sick. She
don't look as if she'd slept any great deal since she's been gone. I d'
know as I like very much to see her looking the way she does. I guess
you've got to take her off somewheres."

"Why, she's just been off, and couldn't stay!"

"That's because she thought he was here yet. But if he's gone, it won't be
the same thing."

"Well, we've got to fight it out, some way," said the Squire. "It wouldn't
do to give in to it now. It always _was_ too much of a one-sided thing,
at the best; and if we tried now to mend it up, it would be ridiculous. I
don't believe he would come back at all, now, and if he did, he wouldn't
come back on any equal terms. He'd want to have everything his own way.
M-no!" said the Squire, as if confirming himself in a conclusion often
reached already in his own mind, "I saw by the way he began to-night that
there wasn't anything to be done with him. It was fight from the word go."

"Well," said Mrs. Gaylord, with gentle, sceptical interest in the outcome,
"if you've made up your mind to that, I hope you'll be able to carry it
through."

"That's what I've made up my mind to," said her husband.

Mrs. Gaylord rolled up the sewing in her work-basket, and packed it away
against the side, bracing it with several pairs of newly darned socks and
stockings neatly folded one into the other. She took her time for this,
and when she rose at last to go out, with her basket in her hand, the door
opened in her face, and Marcia entered. Mrs. Gaylord shrank back, and then
slipped round behind her daughter and vanished. The girl took no notice of
her mother, but went and sat down on her father's knee, throwing her arms
round his neck, and dropping her haggard face on his shoulder. She had
arrived at home a few hours earlier, having driven over from a station ten
miles distant, on a road that did not pass near Equity. After giving as
much of a shock to her mother's mild nature as it was capable of receiving
by her unexpected return, she had gone to her own room, and remained ever
since without seeing her father. He put up his thin old hand and passed it
over her hair, but it was long before either of them spoke.

At last Marcia lifted her head, and looked her father in the face with a
smile so pitiful that he could not bear to meet it. "Well, father?" she
said.

"Well, Marsh," he answered huskily. "What do you think of me now?"

"I'm glad to have you back again," he replied.

"You know why I came?"

"Yes, I guess I know."

She put down her head again, and moaned and cried, "Father! Father!" with
dry sobs. When she looked up, confronting him with her tearless eyes, "What
shall I do? What shall I do?" she demanded desolately.

He tried to clear his throat to speak, but it required more than one effort
to bring the words. "I guess you better go along with me up to Boston. I'm
going up the first of the week."

"No," she said quietly.

"The change would do you good. It's a long while since you've been away
from home," her father urged.

She looked at him in sad reproach of his uncandor. "You know there's
nothing the matter with me, father. You know what the trouble is." He
was silent. He could not face the trouble. "I've heard people talk of a
heartache," she went on. "I never believed there was really such a thing.
But I know there is, now. There's a pain here." She pressed her hand
against her breast. "It's sore with aching. What shall I do? I shall have
to live through it somehow."

"If you don't feel exactly well," said her father "I guess you better see
the doctor."

"What shall I tell him is the matter with me? That I want Bartley Hubbard?"
He winced at the words, but she did not. "He knows that already. Everybody
in town does. It's never been any secret. I couldn't hide it, from the
first day I saw him. I'd just as lief as not they should say I was dying
for him. I shall not care what they say when I'm dead."

"You'd oughtn't,--you'd oughtn't to talk that way, Marcia," said her
father, gently.

"What difference?" she demanded, scornfully. There was truly no difference,
so far as concerned any creed of his, and he was too honest to make further
pretence. "What shall I do?" she went on again. "I've thought of praying;
but what would be the use?"

"I've never denied that there was a God, Marcia," said her father.

"Oh, I know. _That_ kind of God! Well, well! I know that I talk like a
crazy person! Do you suppose it was providential, my being with you in the
office that morning when Bartley came in?"

"No," said her father, "I don't. I think it was an accident."

"Mother said it was providential, my finding him out before it was too
late."

"I think it was a good thing. The fellow has the making of a first-class
scoundrel in him."

"Do you think he's a scoundrel now?" she asked quietly.

"He hasn't had any great opportunity yet," said the old man,
conscientiously sparing him.

"Well, then, I'm sorry I found him out. Yes! If I hadn't, I might have
married him, and perhaps if I had died soon I might never have found him
out. He could have been good to me a year or two, and then, if I died, I
should have been safe. Yes, I wish he could have deceived me till after we
were married. Then I _couldn't_ have borne to give him up, may be."

"You _would_ have given him up, even then. And that's the only thing that
reconciles me to it now. I'm sorry for you, my girl; but you'd have made me
sorrier then. Sooner or later he'd have broken your heart."

"He's broken it now," said the girl, calmly.

"Oh, no, he hasn't," replied her father, with a false cheerfulness that did
not deceive her. "You're young and you'll get over it. I mean to take you
away from here for a while. I mean to take you up to Boston, and on to
New York. I shouldn't care if we went as far as Washington. I guess, when
you've seen a little more of the world, you won't think Bartley Hubbard's
the only one in it."

She looked at him so intently that he thought she must be pleased at his
proposal. "Do you think I could get him back?" she asked.

Her father lost his patience; it was a relief to be angry. "No, I don't
think so. I know you couldn't. And you ought to be ashamed of mentioning
such a thing!"

"Oh, ashamed! No, I've got past that. I have no shame any more where he's
concerned. Oh, I'd give the world if I could call him back,--if I could
only undo what I did! I was wild; I wasn't reasonable; I wouldn't listen to
him. I drove him away without giving him a chance to say a word! Of course,
he must hate me now. What makes you think he wouldn't come back?" she
asked.

"I know he wouldn't," answered her father, with a sort of groan. "He's
going to leave Equity for one thing, and--"

"Going to leave Equity," she repeated, absently Then he felt her tremble.
"How do you know he's going?" She turned upon her father, and fixed him
sternly with her eyes.

"Do you suppose he would stay, after what's happened, any longer than he
could help?"

"How do you know he's going?" she repeated.

"He told me."

She stood up. "He told you? When?"

"To-night."

"Why, where--where did you see him?" she whispered.

"In the office."

"Since--since--I came? Bartley been here! And you didn't tell me,--you
didn't let me know?" They looked at each other in silence. At last, "When
is he going?" she asked.

"To-morrow morning."

She sat down in the chair which her mother had left, and clutched the back
of another, on which her fingers opened and closed convulsively, while she
caught her breath in irregular gasps. She broke into a low moaning, at
last, the expression of abject defeat in the struggle she had waged with
herself. Her father watched her with dumb compassion. "Better go to bed,
Marcia," he said, with the same dry calm as if he had been sending her away
after some pleasant evening which she had suffered to run too far into the
night.

"Don't you think--don't you think--he'll have to see you again before he
goes?" she made out to ask.

"No; he's finished up with me," said the old man.

"Well, then," she cried, desperately, "you'll have to go to him, father,
and get him to come! I can't help it! I can't give him up! You've got to go
to him, now, father,--yes, yes, you have! You've got to go and tell him. Go
and get him to come, for _mercy's_ sake! Tell him that I'm sorry,--that I
beg his pardon,--that I didn't think--I didn't understand,--that I knew he
didn't do anything wrong--" She rose, and, placing her hand on her father's
shoulder, accented each entreaty with a little push.

He looked up into her face with a haggard smile of sympathy. "You're crazy,
Marcia," he said, gently.

"Don't laugh!" she cried. "I'm not crazy now. But I was, then,--yes, stark,
staring crazy. Look here, father! I want to tell you,--I want to explain to
you!" She dropped upon his knee again, and tremblingly passed her arm round
his neck. "You see, I had just told him the day before that I shouldn't
care for anything that happened before we were engaged, and then at the
very first thing I went and threw him off! And I had no right to do it. He
knows that, and that's what makes him so hard towards me. But if you go and
tell him that I see now I was all wrong, and that I beg his pardon, and
then ask him to give me _one_ more trial, just one _more_--You can do as
much as that for me, can't you?"

"Oh, you poor, crazy girl!" groaned her father. "Don't you see that the
trouble is in what the fellow _is_, and not in any particular thing that
he's done? He's a scamp, through and through; and he's all the more a scamp
when he doesn't know it. He hasn't got the first idea of anything but
selfishness."

"No, no! Now, I'll tell you,--now, I'll prove it to you. That very Sunday
when we were out riding together; and we met her and her mother, and their
sleigh upset, and he had to lift her back; and it made me wild to see him,
and I wouldn't hardly touch him or speak to him afterwards, he didn't say
one angry word to me. He just pulled me up to him, and wouldn't let me be
mad; and he said that night he didn't mind it a bit because it showed how
much I liked him. Now, doesn't that prove he's good,--a good deal better
than I am, and that he'll forgive me, if you'll go and ask him? I know he
isn't in bed yet; he always sits up late,--he told me so; and you'll find
him there in his room. Go straight to his room, father; don't let anybody
see you down in the office; I couldn't bear it; and slip out with him as
quietly as you can. But, oh, do hurry now! Don't lose another minute!"

The wild joy sprang into her face, as her father rose; a joy that it was
terrible to him to see die out of it as he spoke: "I tell you it's no use,
Marcia! He wouldn't come if I went to him--"

"Oh, yes,--yes, he would! I know he would! If--"

"He wouldn't! You're mistaken! I should have to get down in the dust for
nothing. He's a bad fellow, I tell you; and you've got to give him up."

"You hate me!" cried the girl. The old man walked to and fro, clutching his
hands. Their lives had always been in such intimate sympathy, his life had
so long had her happiness for its sole pleasure, that the pang in her heart
racked his with as sharp an agony. "Well, I shall die; and then I hope you
will be satisfied."

"Marcia, Marcia!" pleaded her father. "You don't know what you're saying."

"You're letting him go away from me,--you're letting me lose him,--you're
killing me!"

"He wouldn't come, my girl. It would be perfectly useless to go to him.
You _must_--you _must_ try to control yourself, Marcia. There's no other
way,--there's no other hope. You're disgraceful. You ought to be ashamed.
You ought to have some pride about you. I don't know what's come over you
since you've been with that fellow. You seem to be out of your senses. But
try,--try, my girl, to get over it. If you'll fight it, you'll conquer yet.
You've got a spirit for anything. And I'll help you, Marcia. I'll take you
anywhere. I'll do anything for you--"

"You wouldn't go to him, and ask him to come here, if it would save his
life!"

"No," said the old man, with a desperate quiet, "I wouldn't."

She stood looking at him, and then she sank suddenly and straight down, as
if she were sinking through the floor. When he lifted her, he saw that she
was in a dead faint, and while the swoon lasted would be out of her misery.
The sight of this had wrung him so that he had a kind of relief in looking
at her lifeless face; and he was slow in laying her down again, like one
that fears to wake a sleeping child. Then he went to the foot of the
stairs, and softly called to his wife: "Miranda! Miranda!"



IX.


Kinney came into town the next morning bright and early, as he phrased it;
but he did not stop at the hotel for Bartley till nine o'clock. "Thought
I'd give you time for breakfast," he exclaimed, "and so I didn't hurry up
any about gettin' in my supplies."

It was a beautiful morning, so blindingly sunny that Bartley winked as they
drove up through the glistening street, and was glad to dip into the gloom
of the first woods; it was not cold; the snow felt the warmth, and packed
moistly under their runners. The air was perfectly still; at a distance on
the mountain-sides it sparkled as if full of diamond dust. Far overhead
some crows called.

"The sun's getting high," said Bartley, with the light sigh of one to whom
the thought of spring brings no hope.

"Well, I shouldn't begin to plough for corn just yet," replied Kinney.
"It's curious," he went on, "to see how anxious we are to have a thing
over, it don't much matter what it is, whether it's summer or winter. I
suppose we'd feel different if we wa'n't sure there was going to be another
of 'em. I guess that's one reason why the Lord concluded not to keep us
clearly posted on the question of another life. If it wa'n't for the
uncertainty of the thing, there are a lot of fellows like you that
wouldn't stand it here a minute. Why, if we had a dead sure thing of
over-the-river,--good climate, plenty to eat and wear, and not much to
do,--I don't believe any of us would keep Darling Minnie waiting,--well,
a _great_ while. But you see, the thing's all on paper, and that makes us
cautious, and willing to hang on here awhile longer. Looks splendid on the
map: streets regularly laid out; public squares; band-stands; churches;
solid blocks of houses, with all the modern improvements; but you can't
tell whether there's any town there till you're on the ground; and then, if
you don't like it, there's no way of gettin' back to the States." He turned
round upon Bartley and opened his mouth wide, to imply that this was
pleasantry.

"Do you throw your philosophy in, all under the same price, Kinney?" asked
the young fellow.

"Well, yes; I never charge anything over," said Kinney. "You see, I have
a good deal of time to think when I'm around by myself all day, and the
philosophy don't cost me anything, and the fellows like it. Roughing it the
way they do, they can stand 'most anything. Hey?" He now not only opened
his mouth upon Bartley, but thrust him in the side with his elbow, and then
laughed noisily.

Kinney was the cook. He had been over pretty nearly the whole uninhabitable
globe, starting as a gaunt and awkward boy from the Maine woods, and
keeping until he came back to them in late middle-life the same gross and
ridiculous optimism. He had been at sea, and shipwrecked on several islands
in the Pacific; he had passed a rainy season at Panama, and a yellow-fever
season at Vera Cruz, and had been carried far into the interior of Peru by
a tidal wave during an earthquake season; he was in the Border Ruffian War
of Kansas, and he clung to California till prosperity deserted her after
the completion of the Pacific road. Wherever he went, he carried or found
adversity; but, with a heart fed on the metaphysics of Horace Greeley, and
buoyed up by a few wildly interpreted maxims of Emerson, he had always
believed in other men, and their fitness for the terrestrial millennium,
which was never more than ten days or ten miles off. It is not necessary to
say that he had continued as poor as he began, and that he was never able
to contribute to those railroads, mills, elevators, towns, and cities which
were sure to be built, sir, sure to be built, wherever he went. When he
came home at last to the woods, some hundreds of miles north of Equity, he
found that some one had realized his early dream of a summer hotel on the
shore of the beautiful lake there; and he unenviously settled down to
admire the landlord's thrift, and to act as guide and cook for parties of
young ladies and gentlemen who started from the hotel to camp in the woods.
This brought him into the society of cultivated people, for which he had a
real passion. He had always had a few thoughts rattling round in his skull,
and he liked to make sure of them in talk with those who had enjoyed
greater advantages than himself. He never begrudged them their luck;
he simply and sweetly admired them; he made studies of their several
characters, and was never tired of analyzing them to their advantage to the
next summer's parties. Late in the fall, he went in, as it is called, with
a camp of loggers, among whom he rarely failed to find some remarkable men.
But he confessed that he did not enjoy the steady three or four months in
the winter woods with no coming out at all till spring; and he had been
glad of this chance in a logging camp near Equity, in which he had been
offered the cook's place by the owner who had tested his fare in the
Northern woods the summer before. Its proximity to the village allowed him
to loaf in upon civilization at least once a week, and he spent the greater
part of his time at the Free Press office on publication day. He had always
sought the society of newspaper men, and, wherever he could, he had given
them his. He was not long in discovering that Bartley was smart as a steel
trap; and by an early and natural transition from calling the young lady
compositors by their pet names, and patting them on their shoulders, he had
arrived at a like affectionate intimacy with Bartley.

As they worked deep into the woods on their way to the camp, the road
dwindled to a well-worn track between the stumps and bushes. The ground was
rough, and they constantly plunged down the slopes of little hills, and
climbed the sides of the little valleys, and from time to time they had
to turn out for teams drawing logs to the mills in Equity, each with its
equipage of four or five wild young fellows, who saluted Kinney with an
ironical cheer or jovial taunt in passing.

"They're all just so," he explained, with pride, when the last party had
passed. "They're gentlemen, every one of 'em,--perfect gentlemen."

They came at last to a wider clearing than any they had yet passed through,
and here on a level of the hillside stretched the camp, a long, low
structure of logs, with the roof broken at one point by a stovepipe, and
the walls irregularly pierced by small windows; around it crouched and
burrowed in the drift the sheds that served as stables and storehouses.

The sun shone, and shone with dazzling brightness, upon the opening; the
sound of distant shouts and the rhythmical stroke of axes came to it out of
the forest; but the camp was deserted, and in the stillness Kinney's voice
seemed strange and alien. "Walk in, walk in!" he said, hospitably. "I've
got to look after my horse."

But Bartley remained at the door, blinking in the sunshine, and harking to
the near silence that sang in his ears. A curious feeling possessed him;
sickness of himself as of some one else; a longing, consciously helpless,
to be something different; a sense of captivity to habits and thoughts and
hopes that centred in himself, and served him alone.

"Terribly peaceful around here," said Kinney, coming back to him, and
joining him in a survey of the landscape, with his hands on his hips, and a
stem of timothy projecting from his lips.

"Yes, terribly," assented Bartley.

"But it _aint_ a bad way for a man to live, as long as he's young; or haint
got anybody that wants his company more than his room.--Be the place for
you."

"On which ground?" Bartley asked, drily, without taking his eyes from a
distant peak that showed through the notch in the forest.

Kinney laughed in as unselfish enjoyment as if he had made the turn
himself. "Well, that aint exactly what I meant to say: what I meant was
that any man engaged in intellectual pursuits wants to come out and commune
with nature, every little while."

"You call the Equity Free Press intellectual pursuits?" demanded Bartley,
with scorn. "I suppose it is," he added. "Well, here I am,--right on the
commune. But nature's such a big thing, I think it takes two to commune
with her."

"Well, a girl's a help," assented Kinney.

"I wasn't thinking of a girl, exactly," said Bartley, with a little
sadness. "I mean that, if you're not in first-rate spiritual condition,
you're apt to get floored if you undertake to commune with nature."

"I guess that's about so. If a man's got anything, on his mind, a big
railroad depot's the place for _him_. But you're run down. You ought to
come out here, and take a hand, and be a man amongst men." Kinney talked
partly for quantity, and partly for pure, indefinite good feeling.

Bartley turned toward the door. "What have you got inside, here?"

Kinney flung the door open, and followed his guest within. The first
two-thirds of the cabin was used as a dormitory, and the sides were
furnished with rough bunks, from the ground to the roof. The round, unhewn
logs showed their form everywhere; the crevices were calked with moss; and
the walls were warm and tight. It was dark between the bunks, but beyond it
was lighter, and Bartley could see at the farther end a vast cooking-stove,
and three long tables with benches at their sides. A huge coffee-pot stood
on the top of the stove, and various pots and kettles surrounded it.

"Come into the dining-room and sit down in the parlor," said Kinney,
drawing off his coat as he walked forward. "Take the sofa," he added,
indicating a movable bench. He hung his coat on a peg and rolled up his
shirt-sleeves, and began to whistle cheerily, like a man who enjoys his
work, as he threw open the stove door and poked in some sticks of fuel. A
brooding warmth filled the place, and the wood made a pleasant crackling as
it took fire.

"Here's my desk," said Kinney, pointing to a barrel that supported a broad,
smooth board-top. "This is where I compose my favorite works." He turned
round, and cut out of a mighty mass of dough in a tin trough a portion,
which he threw down on his table and attacked with a rolling-pin. "That
means pie, Mr. Hubbard," he explained, "and pie means meat-pie,--or
squash-pie, at a pinch. Today's pie-baking day. But you needn't be troubled
on that account. So's to-morrow, and so was yesterday. Pie twenty-one times
a week is the word, and don't you forget it. They say old Agassiz," Kinney
went on, in that easy, familiar fondness with which our people like to
speak of greatness that impresses their imagination,--"they say old Agassiz
recommended fish as the best food for the brain. Well, I don't suppose but
what it is. But I don't know but what pie is more stimulating to the fancy.
I _never_ saw anything like meat-pie to make ye dream."

"Yes," said Bartley, nodding gloomily, "I've tried it."

Kinney laughed. "Well, I guess folks of sedentary pursuits, like you and
me, don't need it; but these fellows that stamp round in the snow all day,
they want something to keep their imagination goin'. And I guess pie does
it. Anyway, they can't seem to get enough of it. Ever try apples when you
was at work? They say old Greeley kep' his desk full of 'em; kep' munchin'
away all the while when he was writin' his editorials. And one of them
German poets--I don't know but what it was old Gutty himself--kept _rotten_
ones in _his_ drawer; liked the smell of 'em. Well, there's a good deal of
apple in meat-pie. May be it's the apple that does it. _I_ don't know.
But I guess if your pursuits are sedentary, you better take the apple
separate."

Bartley did not say anything; but he kept a lazily interested eye on Kinney
as he rolled out his piecrust, fitted it into his tins, filled these from
a jar of mince-meat, covered them with a sheet of dough pierced in
herring-bone pattern, and marshalled them at one side ready for the oven.

"If fish _is_ any better for the brain," Kinney proceeded, "they can't
complain of any want of it, at least in the salted form. They get
fish-balls three times a week for breakfast, as reg'lar as Sunday, Tuesday,
and Thursday comes round. And Fridays I make up a sort of chowder for the
Kanucks; they're Catholics, you know, and I don't believe in interferin'
with _any_ man's religion, it don't matter what it is."

"You ought to be a deacon in the First Church at Equity," said Bartley.

"Is that so? Why?" asked Kinney.

"Oh, they don't believe in interfering with any man's religion, either."

"Well," said Kinney, thoughtfully, pausing with the rolling-pin in his
hand, "there 'a such a thing as being _too_ liberal, I suppose."

"The world's tried the other thing a good while," said Bartley, with
cynical amusement at Kinney's arrest.

It seemed to chill the flow of the good fellow's optimism, so that he
assented with but lukewarm satisfaction.

"Well, that's so, too," and he made up the rest of his pies in silence.

"Well," he exclaimed at last, as if shaking himself out of an unpleasant
reverie, "I guess we shall get along, somehow. Do you like pork and beans?"

"Yes, I do," said Bartley.

"We're goin' to have 'em for dinner. You can hit beans any meal you drop in
on us; beans twenty-one times a week, just like pie. Set 'em in to warm,"
he said, taking up a capacious earthen pot, near the stove, and putting it
into the oven. "I been pretty much everywheres, and I don't know as I
found anything for a stand-by that come up to beans. I'm goin' to give 'em
potatoes and cabbage to-day,--kind of a boiled-dinner day,--but you'll
see there aint one in ten 'll touch 'em to what there will these old
residenters. Potatoes and cabbage'll do for a kind of a delicacy,--sort of
a side-dish,--on-_tree_, you know; but give 'em beans for a steady diet.
Why, off there in Chili, even, the people regularly live on beans,--not
exactly like ours,--broad and flat,--but they're beans. Wa'n't there some
those ancients--old Horace, or Virgil, may be--rung in something about
beans in some their poems?"

"I don't remember anything of the kind," said Bartley, languidly.

"Well, I don't know as _I_ can. I just have a dim recollection of language
thrown out at the object,--as old Matthew Arnold says. But it might have
been something in Emerson."

Bartley laughed "I didn't suppose you were such a reader, Kinney."

"Oh, I nibble round wherever I can get a chance. Mostly in the newspapers,
you know. I don't get any time for books, as a general rule. But there's
pretty much everything in the papers. I should call beans a brain food."

"I guess you call anything a brain food that you happen to like, don't you,
Kinney?"

"No, sir," said Kinney, soberly; "but I like to see the philosophy of
a thing when I get a chance. Now, there's tea, for example," he said,
pointing to the great tin pot on the stove.

"Coffee, you mean," said Bartley.

"No, sir, I mean tea. That's tea; and I give it to 'em three times a day,
good and strong,--molasses in it, and no milk. That's a brain food, if ever
there was one. Sets 'em up, right on end, every time. Clears their heads
and keeps the cold out."

"I should think you were running a seminary for young ladies, instead of a
logging-camp," said Bartley.

"No, but look at it: I'm in earnest about tea. You look at the tea drinkers
and the coffee-drinkers all the world over! Look at 'em in our own country!
All the Northern people and all the go-ahead people drink tea. The
Pennsylvanians and the Southerners drink coffee. Why our New England folks
don't even know how to _make_ coffee so it's fit to drink! And it's just
so all over Europe. The Russians drink tea, and they'd e't up those
coffee-drinkin' Turks long ago, if the tea-drinkin' English hadn't kept 'em
from it. Go anywheres you like in the North, and you find 'em drinkin' tea.
The Swedes and Norwegians in Aroostook County drink it; and they drink it
at home."

"Well, what do you think of the French and Germans? They drink coffee, and
they're pretty smart, active people, too."

"French and Germans drink coffee?"

"Yes."

Kinney stopped short in his heated career of generalization, and scratched
his shaggy head. "Well," he said, finally, "I guess they're a kind of
a missing link, as old Darwin says." He joined Bartley in his laugh
cordially, and looked up at the round clock nailed to a log. "It's about
time I set my tables, anyway. Well," he asked, apparently to keep the
conversation from flagging, while he went about this work, "how is the good
old Free Press getting along?"

"It's going to get along without me from this out," said Bartley. "This is
my last week in Equity."

"No!" retorted Kinney, in tremendous astonishment.

"Yes; I'm off at the end of the week. Squire Gaylord takes the paper back
for the committee, and I suppose Henry Bird will run it for a while; or
perhaps they'll stop it altogether. It's been a losing business for the
committee."

"Why, I thought you'd bought it of 'em."

"Well, that's what I expected to do; but the office hasn't made any money.
All that I've saved is in my colt and cutter."

"That sorrel?"

Bartley nodded. "I'm going away about as poor as I came. I couldn't go much
poorer."

"Well!" said Kinney, in the exhaustion of adequate language. He went
on laying the plates and knives and forks in silence. These were of
undisguised steel; the dishes and the drinking mugs were of that dense and
heavy make which the keepers of cheap restaurants use to protect themselves
against breakage, and which their servants chip to the quick at every edge.
Kinney laid bread and crackers by each plate, and on each he placed a vast
slab of cold corned beef. Then he lifted the lid of the pot in which the
cabbage and potatoes were boiling together, and pricked them with a fork.
He dished up the beans in a succession of deep tins, and set them at
intervals along the tables, and began to talk again. "Well, now, I'm sorry.
I'd just begun to feel real well acquainted with you. Tell you the truth, I
didn't take much of a fancy to you, first off."

"Is that so?" asked Bartley, not much disturbed by the confession.

"Yes, sir. Well, come to boil it down," said Kinney, with the frankness of
the analytical mind that disdains to spare itself in the pursuit of truth,
"I didn't like your good clothes. I don't suppose I ever had a suit of
clothes to fit me. Feel kind of ashamed, you know, when I go into the
store, and take the first thing the Jew wants to put off on to me. Now, I
suppose you go to Macullar and Parker's in Boston, and you get what _you_
want."

"No; I have my measure at a tailor's," said Bartley, with ill-concealed
pride in the fact.

"You don't say so!" exclaimed Kinney. "Well!" he said, as if he might as
well swallow this pill, too, while he was about it. "Well, what's the use?
I never was the figure for clothes, anyway. Long, gangling boy to start
with, and a lean, stoop-shouldered man. I found out some time ago that a
fellow wa'n't necessarily a bad fellow because he had money, or a good
fellow because he hadn't. But I hadn't quite got over hating a man because
he had style. Well, I suppose it was a kind of a _survival_, as old Tylor
calls it. But I tell you, I sniffed round you a good while before I made up
my mind to swallow you. And that turnout of yours, it kind of staggered me,
after I got over the clothes. Why, it wa'n't so much the colt,--any man
likes to ride after a sorrel colt; and it wa'n't so much the cutter: it was
the red linin' with pinked edges that you had to your robe; and it was the
red ribbon that you had tied round the waist of your whip. When I see that
ribbon on that whip, damn you, I wanted to kill you." Bartley broke out
into a laugh, but Kinney went on soberly. "But, thinks I to myself: 'Here!
Now you stop right here! You wait! You give the fellow a chance for his
life. Let him have a chance to show whether that whip-ribbon goes all
through him, first. If it does, kill him cheerfully; but give him a chance
_first_.' Well, sir, I gave you the chance, and you showed that you
deserved it. I guess you taught me a lesson. When I see you at work,
pegging away hard at something or other, every time I went into your
office, up and coming with everybody, and just as ready to pass the time of
day with me as the biggest bug in town, thinks I: 'You'd have made a great
mistake to kill that fellow, Kinney!' And I just made up my mind to like
you."

"Thanks," said Bartley, with ironical gratitude.

Kinney did not speak at once. He whistled thoughtfully through his teeth,
and then he said: "I'll tell you what: if you're going away _very_ poor, I
know a wealthy chap you can raise a loan out of."

Bartley thought seriously for a silent moment. "If your friend offers me
twenty dollars, I'm not too well dressed to take it."

"All right," said Kinney. He now dished up the cabbage and potatoes, and
throwing a fresh handful of tea into the pot, and filling it up with water,
he took down a tin horn, with which he went to the door and sounded a long,
stertorous note.



X.


"Guess it was the clothes again," said Kinney, as he began to wash his tins
and dishes after the dinner was over, and the men had gone back to their
work. "I could see 'em eyin' you over when they first came in, and I could
see that they didn't exactly like the looks of 'em. It would wear off in
time, but it _takes_ time for it to wear off; and it had to go pretty rusty
for a start-off. Well, I don't know as it makes much difference to you,
does it?"

"Oh, I thought we got along very well," said Bartley, with a careless yawn.
"There wasn't much chance to get acquainted." Some of the loggers were as
handsome and well-made as he, and were of as good origin and traditions,
though he had some advantages of training. But his two-button cutaway, his
well-fitting trousers, his scarf with a pin in it, had been too much for
these young fellows in their long 'stoga boots and flannel shirts. They
looked at him askance, and despatched their meal with more than their
wonted swiftness, and were off again into the woods without any
demonstrations of satisfaction in Bartley's presence.

He had perceived their grudge, for he had felt it in his time. But it did
not displease him; he had none of the pain with which Kinney, who had so
long bragged of him to the loggers, saw that his guest was a failure.

"I guess they'll come out all right in the end," he said. In this warm
atmosphere, after the gross and heavy dinner he had eaten, he yawned again
and again. He folded his overcoat into a pillow for his bench and lay down,
and lazily watched Kinney about his work. Presently he saw Kinney seated on
a block of wood beside the stove, with his elbow propped in one hand, and
holding a magazine, out of which he was reading; he wore spectacles, which
gave him a fresh and interesting touch of grotesqueness. Bartley found that
an empty barrel had been placed on each side of him, evidently to keep him
from rolling off his bench.

"Hello!" he said. "Much obliged to you, Kinney. I haven't been taken such
good care of since I can remember. Been asleep, haven't I?"

"About an hour," said Kinney, with a glance at the clock, and ignoring his
agency in Bartley's comfort.

"Food for the brain!" said Bartley, sitting up. "I should think so. I've
dreamt a perfect New American Cyclopaedia, and a pronouncing gazetteer
thrown in."

"Is that so?" said Kinney, as if pleased with the suggestive character of
his cookery, now established by eminent experiment.

Bartley yawned a yawn of satisfied sleepiness, and rubbed his hand over
his face. "I suppose," he said, "if I'm going to write anything about Camp
Kinney, I had better see all there is to see."

"Well, yes, I presume you had," said Kinney. "We'll go over to where
they're cuttin', pretty soon, and you can see all there is in an hour. But
I presume you'll want to see it so as to ring in some description, hey?
Well, that's all right. But what you going to do with it, when you've done
it, now you're out of the Free Press?"

"Oh, I shouldn't have printed it in the Free Press, anyway Coals to
Newcastle, you know. I'll tell you what I think I'll do, Kinney: I'll get
my outlines, and then you post me with a lot of facts,--queer characters,
accidents, romantic incidents, snowings-up, threatened starvation,
adventures with wild animals,--and I can make something worth while; get
out two or three columns, so they can print it in their Sunday edition. And
then I'll take it up to Boston with me, and seek my fortune with it."

"Well, sir, I'll do it," said Kinney, fired with the poetry of the idea.
"I'll post you! Dumn 'f I don't wish _I_ could write! Well, I _did_ use to
scribble once for an agricultural paper; but I don't call that writin'.
I've set down, well, I guess as much as sixty times, to try to write out
what I know about loggin'--"

"Hold on!" cried Bartley, whipping out his notebook. "That's first-rate.
That'll do for the first line in the head,--_What I Know About
Logging_,--large caps. Well!"

Kinney shut his magazine, and took his knee between his hands, closing one
of his eyes in order to sharpen his recollection. He poured forth a stream
of reminiscence, mingled observation, and personal experience. Bartley
followed him with his pencil, jotting down points, striking in sub-head
lines, and now and then interrupting him with cries of "Good!" "Capital!"
"It's a perfect mine,--it's a mint! By Jove!" he exclaimed, "I'll make
_six_ columns of this! I'll offer it to one of the magazines, and it'll
come out illustrated! Go on, Kinney."

"Hark!" said Kinney, craning his neck forward to listen. "I thought I heard
sleigh-bells. But I guess it wa'n't. Well, sir, as I was sayin', they
fetched that fellow into camp with both feet frozen to the knees--Dumn 'f
it _wa'n't_ bells!"

He unlimbered himself, and hurried to the door at the other end of the
cabin, which he opened, letting in a clear block of the afternoon sunshine,
and a gush of sleigh-bell music, shot with men's voices, and the cries and
laughter of women.

"Well, sir," said Kinney, coming back and making haste to roll down his
sleeves and put on his coat. "_Here's_ a nuisance! A whole party of
folks--two sleigh-loads--right _on_ us. I don't know who they _be_, or
where they're from. But I know where I wish they _was_. Well, of course,
it's natural they should want to see a loggin'-camp," added Kinney, taking
himself to task for his inhospitable mind, "and there ain't any harm in it.
But I wish they'd give a fellow a _little_ notice!"

The voices and bells drew nearer, but Kinney seemed resolved to observe the
decorum of not going to the door till some one knocked.

"Kinney! Kinney! Hello, Kinney!" shouted a man's voice, as the bells hushed
before the door, and broke into a musical clash when one of the horses
tossed his head.

"Well, sir," said Kinney, rising, "I guess it's old Willett himself. He's
the owner; lives up to Portland, and been threatening to come down here all
winter, with a party of friends. You just stay still," he added; and he
paid himself the deference which every true American owes himself in his
dealings with his employer: he went to the door very deliberately, and made
no haste on account of the repeated cries of "Kinney! Kinney!" in which
others of the party outside now joined.

When he opened the door again, the first voice saluted him with a roar of
laughter. "Why, Kinney, I began to think you were dead!"

"No, sir," Bartley heard Kinney reply, "it takes more to kill me than you
suppose." But now he stepped outside, and the talk became unintelligible.

Finally Bartley heard what was imaginably Mr. Willett's voice saying,
"Well, let's go in and have a look at it now"; and with much outcry and
laughter the ladies were invisibly helped to dismount, and presently the
whole party came stamping and rustling in.

Bartley's blood tingled. He liked this, and he stood quite self-possessed,
with his thumbs in his waistcoat pockets and his elbows dropped, while Mr.
Willett advanced in a friendly way.

"Ah, Mr. Hubbard! Kinney told us you were in here, and asked me to
introduce myself while he looked after the horses. My name's Willett. These
are my daughters; this is Mrs. Macallister, of Montreal; Mrs. Witherby, of
Boston; Miss Witherby, and Mr. Witherby. _You_ ought to know each other;
Mr. Hubbard is the editor of the Equity Free Press. Mr. Witherby, of The
Boston Events, Mr. Hubbard. Oh, and _Mr._ Macallister."

Bartley bowed to the Willett and Witherby ladies, and shook hands with Mr.
Witherby, a large, solemn man, with a purse-mouth and tight rings of white
hair, who treated him with the pomp inevitable to the owner of a city
newspaper in meeting a country editor.

At the mention of his name, Mr. Macallister, a slight little straight man,
in a long ulster and a sealskin cap, tiddled farcically forward on his
toes, and, giving Bartley his hand, said, "Ah, haow d'e-do, _haow_ d'e-do!"

Mrs. Macallister fixed upon him the eye of the flirt who knows her man. She
was of the dark-eyed English type; her eyes were very large and full, and
her smooth black hair was drawn flatly backward, and fastened in a knot
just under her dashing fur cap. She wore a fur sack, and she was equipped
against the cold as exquisitely as her Southern sisters defend themselves
from the summer. Bits of warm color, in ribbon and scarf, flashed out here
and there; when she flung open her sack, she showed herself much more
lavishly buttoned and bugled and bangled than the Americans. She sat clown
on the movable bench which Bartley had vacated, and crossed her feet, very
small and saucy, even in their arctics, on a stick of fire-wood, and cast
up her neat profile, and rapidly made eyes at every part of the interior.
"Why, it's delicious, you know. I never saw anything so comfortable. I want
to spend the rest of me life here, you know." She spoke very far down in
her throat, and with a rising inflection in each sentence. "I'm going to
have a quarrel with you, Mr. Willett, for not telling me what a delightful
surprise you had for us here. Oh, but I'd no idea of it, I assure you!"

"Well, I'm glad you like it, Mrs. Macallister," said Mr. Willett, with the
clumsiness of American middle-age when summoned to say something gallant.
"If I'd told you what a surprise I had for you, it wouldn't have been one."

"Oh, it's no good your trying to get out of it _that_ way," retorted the
beauty. "There he comes now! I'm really in love with him, you know," she
said, as Kinney opened the door and came hulking forward.

Nobody said anything at once, but Bartley laughed finally, and ventured,
"Well, I'll propose for you to Kinney."

"Oh, I dare say!" cried the beauty, with a lively effort of wit. "Mr.
Kinney, I have fallen in love with your camp, d' ye know?" she added, as
Kinney drew near, "and I'm beggin' Mr. Willett to let me come and live here
among you."

"Well, ma'am," said Kinney, a little abashed at this proposition, "you
couldn't do a better thing for your health, I _guess_."

The proprietor of The Boston Events turned about, and began to look
over the arrangements of the interior; the other ladies went with him,
conversing, in low tones. "These must be the places where the men sleep,"
they said, gazing at the bunks.

"We must get Kinney to explain things to us," said Mr. Willett a little
restlessly.

Mrs. Macallister jumped briskly to her feet. "Oh, yes, do, Mr. Willett,
make him explain everything! I've been tryin' to coax it out of him, but
he's _such_ a tease!"

Kinney looked very sheepish in this character, and Mrs. Macallister hooked
Bartley to her side for the tour of the interior. "I can't let you away
from me, Mr. Hubbard; your friend's so satirical, I'm afraid of him. Only
fancy, Mr. Willett! He's been talkin' to _me_ about brain foods! I know
he's makin' fun of me; and it isn't kind, is it, Mr. Hubbard?"

She did not give the least notice to the things that the others looked at,
or to Kinney's modest lecture upon the manners and customs of the loggers.
She kept a little apart with Bartley, and plied him with bravadoes, with
pouts, with little cries of suspense. In the midst of this he heard Mr.
Willett saying, "You ought to get some one to come and write about this for
your paper, Witherby." But Mrs. Macallister was also saying something,
with a significant turn of her floating eyes, and the thing that concerned
Bartley, if he were to make his way among the newspapers in Boston, slipped
from his grasp like the idea which we try to seize in a dream. She made
sure of him for the drive to the place which they visited to see the men
felling the trees, by inviting him to a seat at her side in the sleigh;
this crowded the others, but she insisted, and they all gave way, as people
must, to the caprices of a pretty woman. Her coquetries united British
wilfulness to American nonchalance, and seemed to have been graduated
to the appreciation of garrison and St. Lawrence River steamboat and
watering-place society. The Willett ladies had already found it necessary
to explain to the Witherby ladies that they had met her the summer before
at the sea-side, and that she had stopped at Portland on her way to
England; they did not know her very well, but some friends of theirs did;
and their father had asked her to come with them to the camp. They added
that the Canadian ladies seemed to expect the gentlemen to be a great deal
more attentive than ours were. They had known as little what to do with Mr.
Macallister's small-talk and compliments as his wife's audacities, but they
did not view Bartley's responsiveness with pleasure. If Mrs. Macallister's
arts were not subtle, as Bartley even in the intoxication of her preference
could not keep from seeing, still, in his mood, it was consoling to
be singled out by her; it meant that even in a logging-camp he was
recognizable by any person of fashion as a good-looking, well-dressed man
of the world. It embittered him the more against Marcia, while, in some
sort, it vindicated him to himself.

The early winter sunset was beginning to tinge the snow with crimson, when
the party started back to camp, where Kinney was to give them supper; he
had it greatly on his conscience that they should have a good time, and he
promoted it as far as hot mince-pie and newly fried doughnuts would go. He
also opened a few canned goods, as he called some very exclusive sardines
and peaches, and he made an entirely fresh pot of tea, and a pan of
soda-biscuit. Mrs. Macallister made remarks across her plate which were
for Bartley alone; and Kinney, who was seriously waiting upon his guests,
refused to respond to Bartley's joking reference to himself of some
questions and comments of hers.

After supper, when the loggers had withdrawn to the other end of the long
hut, she called out to Kinney, "Oh, _do_ tell them to smoke: we shall not
mind it at all, I assure you. Can't some of them do something? Sing or
dance?"

Kinney unbent a little at this. "There's a first-class clog-dancer among
them; but he's a little stuck up, and I don't know as you could get him to
dance," he said in a low tone.

"What a bloated aristocrat!" cried the lady. "Then the only thing is for us
to dance first. Can they play?"

"One of 'em can whistle like a bird,--he can whistle like a whole band,"
answered Kinney, warming. "And of course the Kanucks can fiddle."

"And what are Kanucks? Is _that_ what you call us Canadians?"

"Well, ma'am, it aint quite the thing to do," said Kinney, penitently.

"It isn't at _all_ the thing to do! Which are the Kanucks?"

She rose, and went forward with Kinney, in her spoiled way, and addressed
a swarthy, gleaming-eyed young logger in French. He answered with a smile
that showed all his white teeth, and turned to one of his comrades; then
the two rose, and got violins out of the bunks, and came forward. Others of
their race joined them, but the Yankees hung gloomily back; they clearly
did not like these liberties, this patronage.

"I shall have your clog-dancer on his feet yet, Mr. Kinney," said Mrs.
Macallister, as she came back to her place.

The Canadians began to play and sing those gay, gay airs of old France
which they have kept unsaddened through all the dark events that have
changed the popular mood of the mother country; they have matched words
to them in celebration of their life on the great rivers and in the vast
forests of the North, and in these blithe barcaroles and hunting-songs
breathes the joyous spirit of a France that knows neither doubt nor
care,--France untouched by Revolution or Napoleonic wars; some of the airs
still keep the very words that came over seas with them two hundred years
ago. The transition to the dance was quick and inevitable; a dozen slim
young fellows were gliding about behind the players, pounding the hard
earthen floor, and singing in time.

"Oh, come, come!" cried the beauty, rising and stamping impatiently with
her little foot, "suppose we dance, too."

She pulled Bartley forward by the hand; her husband followed with the
taller Miss Willett; two of the Canadians, at the instance of Mrs.
Macallister, came forward and politely asked the honor of the other young
ladies' hands in the dance; their temper was infectious, and the cotillon
was in full life before their partners had time to wonder at their consent.
Mrs. Macallister could sing some of the Canadian songs; her voice, clear
and fresh, rang through those of the men, while in at the window, thrown
open for air, came the wild cries of the forest,--the wail of a catamount,
and the solemn hooting of a distant owl.

"Isn't it jolly good fun?" she demanded, when the figure was finished; and
now Kinney went up to the first-class clog-dancer, and prevailed with him
to show his skill. He seemed to comply on condition that the whistler
should furnish the music; he came forward with a bashful hauteur, bridling
stiffly like a girl, and struck into the laborious and monotonous jig which
is, perhaps, our national dance. He was exquisitely shaped, and as he
danced he suppled more and more, while the whistler warbled a wilder and
swifter strain, and kept time with his hands. There was something that
stirred the blood in the fury of the strain and dance. When it was done,
Mrs. Macallister caught off her cap and ran round among the spectators
to make them pay; she excused no one, and she gave the money to Kinney,
telling him to get his loggers something to keep the cold out.

"I should say whiskey, if I were in the Canadian bush," she suggested.

"Well, _I_ guess we sha'n't say anything of that sort in _this_ camp," said
Kinney.

She turned upon Bartley, "I know Mr. Hubbard is dying to do something.
Do something, Mr. Hubbard!" Bartley looked up in surprise at this
interpretation of his tacit wish to distinguish himself before her. "Come,
sing us some of your student songs."

Bartley's vanity had confided the fact of his college training to her,
and he was really thinking just then that he would like to give them a
serio-comic song, for which he had been famous with his class. He borrowed
the violin of a Kanuck, and, sitting down, strummed upon it banjo-wise. The
song was one of those which is partly spoken and acted; he really did it
very well; but the Willett and Witherby ladies did not seem to understand
it quite; and the gentlemen looked as if they thought this very undignified
business for an educated American.

Mrs. Macallister feigned a yawn, and put up her hand to hide it. "_Oh_,
what a styupid song!" she said. She sprang to her feet, and began to put
on her wraps. The others were glad of this signal to go, and followed her
example. "Good by!" she cried, giving her hand to Kinney. "_I_ don't think
your ideas are ridiculous. I think there's no end of good sense in them, I
assure you. I hope you won't leave off that regard for the brain in your
cooking. Good by!" She waved her hand to the Americans, and then to the
Kanucks, as she passed out between their respectfully parted ranks. "Adieu,
messieurs!" She merely nodded to Bartley; the others parted from him
coldly, as he fancied, and it seemed to him that he had been made
responsible for that woman's coquetries, when he was conscious, all the
time, of having forborne even to meet them half-way. But this was not
so much to his credit as he imagined. The flirt can only practise her
audacities safely by grace of those upon whom she uses them, and if men
really met them half-way there could be no such tiling as flirting.



XI.


The loggers pulled off their boots and got into their bunks, where some of
them lay and smoked, while others fell asleep directly.

Bartley made some indirect approaches to Kinney for sympathy in the
snub which he had received, and which rankled in his mind with unabated
keenness.

But Kinney did not respond. "Your bed's ready," he said. "You can turn in
whenever you like."

"What's the matter?" asked Bartley.

"Nothing's the matter, if you say so," answered Kinney, going about some
preparations for the morning's breakfast.

Bartley looked at his resentful back. He saw that he was hurt, and he
surmised that Kinney suspected him of making fun of his eccentricities to
Mrs. Macallister. He _had_ laughed at Kinney, and tried to amuse her with
him; but he could not have made this appear as harmless as it was. He rose
from the bench on which he had been sitting, and shut with a click the
penknife with which he had been cutting a pattern on its edge.

"I shall have to say good night to you, I believe," he said, going to the
peg on which Kinney had hung his hat and overcoat. He had them on, and was
buttoning the coat in an angry tremor before Kinney looked up and realized
what his guest was about.

"Why, what--why, where--you goin'?" he faltered in dismay.

"To Equity," said Bartley, feeling in his coat pockets for his gloves, and
drawing them on, without looking at Kinney, whose great hands were in a pan
of dough.

"Why--why--no, you aint!" he protested, with a revulsion of feeling that
swept away all his resentment, and left him nothing but remorse for his
inhospitality.

"No?" said Bartley, putting up the collar of the first ulster worn by a
native in that region.

"Why, look here!" cried Kinney, pulling his hands out of the dough, and
making a fruitless effort to cleanse them upon each other. "I don't want
you to go, this way."

"Don't you? I'm sorry to disoblige you; but I'm going," said Bartley.

Kinney tried to laugh. "Why, Hubbard,--why, Bartley,--why, Bart!" he
exclaimed. "What's the matter with you? I aint mad!"

"You have an unfortunate manner, then. Good night." He strode out between
the bunks, full of snoring loggers.

Kinney hurried after him, imploring and protesting in a low voice, trying
to get before him, and longing to lay his floury paws upon him and detain
him by main force, but even in his distress respecting Bartley's overcoat
too much to touch it. He followed him out into the freezing air in his
shirt-sleeves, and besought him not to be such a fool. "It makes me feel
like the devil!" he exclaimed, pitifully. "You come back, now, half a
minute, and I'll make it all right with you. I know I can; you're a
gentleman, and you'll understand. _Do_ come back! I shall never get over it
if you don't!"

"I'm sorry," said Bartley, "but I'm not going back. Good night."

"Oh, good Lordy!" lamented Kinney. "What am I goin' to do? Why, man! It's a
good three mile and more to Equity, and the woods is full of catamounts. I
tell ye 't aint safe for ye." He kept following Bartley down the path to
the road.

"I'll risk it," said Bartley.

Kinney had left the door of the camp open, and the yells and curses of the
awakened sleepers recalled him to himself. "Well, well! If you will _go_"
he groaned in despair, "here's that money." He plunged his doughy hand into
his pocket, and pulled out a roll of bills. "Here it is. I haint time to
count it; but it'll be all right, anyhow."

Bartley did not even turn his head to look round at him. "Keep your money!"
he said, as he plunged forward through the snow. "I wouldn't touch a cent
of it to save your life."

"All right," said Kinney, in hapless contrition, and he returned to shut
himself in with the reproaches of the loggers and the upbraiding of his own
heart.

Bartley dashed along the road in a fury that kept him unconscious of the
intense cold; and he passed half the night, when he was once more in his
own room, packing his effects against his departure next day. When all was
done, he went to bed, half wishing that he might never rise from it again.
It was not that he cared for Kinney; that fool's sulking was only the
climax of a long series of injuries of which he was the victim at the hands
of a hypercritical omnipotence.

Despite his conviction that it was useless to struggle longer against such
injustice, he lived through the night, and came down late to breakfast,
which he found stale, and without the compensating advantage of finding
himself alone at the table. Some ladies had lingered there to clear up on
the best authority the distracting rumors concerning him which they had
heard the day before. Was it true that he had intended to spend the rest of
the winter in logging? and _was_ it true that he was going to give up the
Free Press? and was it _true_ that Henry Bird was going to be the editor?
Bartley gave a sarcastic confirmation to all these reports, and went out to
the printing-office to gather up some things of his. He found Henry Bird
there, looking pale and sick, but at work, and seemingly in authority. This
was what Bartley had always intended when he should go out, but he did not
like it, and he resented some small changes that had already been made in
the editor's room, in tacit recognition of his purpose not to occupy it
again.

Bird greeted him stiffly; the printer girls briefly nodded to him,
suppressing some little hysterical titters, and tacitly let him feel that
he was no longer master there. While he was in the composing-room Hannah
Morrison came in, apparently from some errand outside, and, catching sight
of him, stared, and pertly passed him in silence. On his inkstand he found
a letter from Squire Gaylord, briefly auditing his last account, and
enclosing the balance due him. From this the old lawyer, with the careful
smallness of a village business man, had deducted various little sums for
things which Bartley had never expected to pay for. With a like thriftiness
the landlord, when Bartley asked for his bill, had charged certain items
that had not appeared in the bills before. Bartley felt that the charges
were trumped up; but he was powerless to dispute them; besides, he hoped
to sell the landlord his colt and cutter, and he did not care to prejudice
that matter. Some bills from storekeepers, which he thought he had paid,
were handed to him by the landlord, and each of the churches had sent in
a little account for pew-rent for the past eighteen months: he had always
believed himself dead-headed at church. He outlawed the latter by tearing
them to pieces in the landlord's presence, and dropping the fragments into
a spittoon. It seemed to him that every soul in Equity was making a clutch
at the rapidly diminishing sum of money which Squire Gaylord had enclosed
to him, and which was all he had in the world. On the other hand, his
popularity in the village seemed to have vanished over night. He had
sometimes fancied a general and rebellious grief when it should become
known that he was going away; but instead there was an acquiescence
amounting to airiness.

He wondered if anything about his affairs with Henry Bird and Hannah
Morrison had leaked out. But he did not care. He only wished to shake the
snow of Equity off his feet as soon as possible.

After dinner, when the boarders had gone out, and the loafers had not yet
gathered in, he offered the landlord his colt and cutter. Bartley knew that
the landlord wanted the colt; but now the latter said, "I don't know as I
care to buy any horses, right in the winter, this way."

"All right," answered Bartley. "Just have the colt put into the cutter."

Andy Morrison brought it round. The boy looked at Bartley's set face with
a sort of awe-stricken affection; his adoration for the young man survived
all that he had heard said against him at home during the series of family
quarrels that had ensued upon his father's interview with him; he longed to
testify, somehow, his unabated loyalty, but he could not think of anything
to do, much less to say.

Bartley pitched his valise into the cutter, and then, as Andy left the
horse's head to give him a hand with his trunk, offered him a dollar. "I
don't want anything," said the boy, shyly refusing the money out of pure
affection.

But Bartley mistook his motive, and thought it sulky resentment. "Oh, very
well," he said. "Take hold."

The landlord came out. "Hold on a minute," he said. "Where you goin' to
take the cars?"

"At the Junction," answered Bartley. "I know a man there that will buy the
colt. What is it you want?"

The landlord stepped back a few paces, and surveyed the establishment. "I
should like to ride after that hoss," he said, "if you aint in any great of
a hurry."

"Get in," said Bartley, and the landlord took the reins.

From time to time, as he drove, he rose up and looked over the dashboard to
study the gait of the horse. "I've noticed he strikes some, when he first
comes out in the spring."

"Yes," Bartley assented.

"Pulls consid'able."

"He pulls."

The landlord rose again and scrutinized the horse's legs. "I don't know as
I ever noticed 't he'd capped his hock before."

"Didn't you?"

"Done it kickin' nights, I guess."

"I guess so."

The landlord drew the whip lightly across the colt's rear; he shrank
together, and made a little spring forward, but behaved perfectly well.

"I don't know as I should always be sure he wouldn't kick in the daytime."

"No," said Bartley, "you never can be sure of anything."

They drove along in silence. At last the landlord said, "Well, he aint so
fast as I _supposed_."

"He's not so fast a horse as some," answered Bartley.

The landlord leaned over sidewise for an inspection of the colt's action
forward. "Haint never thought he had a splint on that forward off leg?"

"A splint? Perhaps he has a splint."

They returned to the hotel and both alighted.

"Skittish devil," remarked the landlord, as the colt quivered under the
hand he laid upon him.

"He's skittish," said Bartley.

The landlord retired as far back as the door, and regarded the colt
critically. "Well, I s'pose you've always used him too well ever to winded
him, but dumn 'f he don't _blow_ like it."

"Look here, Simpson," said Bartley, very quietly. "You know this horse as
well as I do, and you know there isn't an out about him. You want to buy
him because you always have. Now make me an offer."

"Well," groaned the landlord, "what'll you take for the whole rig, just as
it stands,--colt, cutter, leathers, and robe?"

"Two hundred dollars," promptly replied Bartley.

"I'll give ye seventy-five," returned the landlord with equal promptness.

"Andy, take hold of the end of that trunk, will you?"

The landlord allowed them to put the trunk into the cutter. Bartley got in
too, and, shifting the baggage to one side, folded the robe around him from
his middle down and took his seat. "This colt can road you right along all
day inside of five minutes, and he can trot inside of two-thirty every
time; and you know it as well as I do."

"Well," said the landlord, "make it an even hundred."

Bartley leaned forward and gathered up the reins, "Let go his head, Andy,"
he quietly commanded.

"Make it one and a quarter," cried the landlord, not seeing that his chance
was past. "What do you say?"

What Bartley said, as he touched the colt with the whip, the landlord never
knew. He stood watching the cutter's swift disappearance up the road, in a
sort of stupid expectation of its return. When he realized that Bartley's
departure was final, he said under his breath, "Sold, ye dumned old fool,
and serve ye right," and went in-doors with a feeling of admiration! for
colt and man that bordered on reverence.



XII.


This last drop of the local meanness filled Bartley's bitter cup. As he
passed the house at the end of the street he seemed to drain it all. He
knew that the old lawyer was there sitting by the office stove, drawing his
hand across his chin, and Bartley hoped that he was still as miserable as
he had looked when he last saw him; but he did not know that by the window
in the house, which he would not even look at, Marcia sat self-prisoned in
her room, with her eyes upon the road, famishing for the thousandth part of
a chance to see him pass. She saw him now for the instant of his coming and
going. With eyes trained to take in every point, she saw the preparation
which seemed like final departure, and with a gasp of "Bartley!" as if she
were trying to call after him, she sank back into her chair and shut her
eyes.

He drove on, plunging into the deep hollow beyond the house, and keeping
for several miles the road they had taken on that Sunday together; but he
did not make the turn that brought them back to the village again. The pale
sunset was slanting over the snow when he reached the Junction, for he
had slackened his colt's pace after he had put ten miles behind him, not
choosing to reach a prospective purchaser with his horse all blown and
bathed with sweat. He wished to be able to say, "Look at him! He's come
fifteen miles since three o'clock, and he's as keen as when he started."

This was true, when, having left his baggage at the Junction, he drove
another mile into the country to see the farmer of the gentleman who had
his summer-house here, and who had once bantered Bartley to sell him his
colt. The farmer was away, and would not be at home till the up-train from
Boston was in. Bartley looked at his watch, and saw that to wait would
lose him the six o'clock down-train. There would be no other till eleven
o'clock. But it was worth while: the gentleman had said, "When you want the
money for that colt, bring him over any time; my farmer will have it ready
for you." He waited for the up-train; but when the farmer arrived, he was
full of all sorts of scruples and reluctances. He said he should not like
to buy it till he had heard from Mr. Farnham; he ended by offering Bartley
eighty dollars for the colt on his own account; he did not want the cutter.

"You write to Mr. Farnham," said Bartley, "that you tried that plan with
me, and it wouldn't work, he's lost the colt."

He made this brave show of indifference, but he was disheartened, and,
having carried the farmer home from the Junction for the convenience of
talking over the trade with him, he drove back again through the early
night-fall in sullen desperation.

The weather had softened and was threatening rain or snow; the dark was
closing in spiritlessly; the colt, shortening from a trot into a short,
springy jolt, dropped into a walk at last as if he were tired, and gave
Bartley time enough on his way back to the Junction for reflection upon the
disaster into which his life had fallen. These passages of utter despair
are commoner to the young than they are to those whom years have
experienced in the impermanence of any fate, good, bad, or indifferent,
unless, perhaps, the last may seem rather constant. Taken in reference to
all that had been ten days ago, the present ruin was incredible, and had
nothing reasonable in proof of its existence. Then he was prosperously
placed, and in the way to better himself indefinitely. Now, he was here in
the dark, with fifteen dollars in his pocket, and an unsalable horse on his
hands; outcast, deserted, homeless, hopeless: and by whose fault? He owned
even then that he had committed some follies; but in his sense of Marcia's
all-giving love he had risen for once in his life to a conception of
self-devotion, and in taking herself from him as she did, she had taken
from him the highest incentive he had ever known, and had checked him in
his first feeble impulse to do and be all in all for another. It was she
who had ruined him.

As he jumped out of the cutter at the Junction the station-master stopped
with a cluster of party-colored signal-lanterns in his hand and cast their
light over the sorrel.

"Nice colt you got there."

"Yes," said Bartley, blanketing the horse, "do you know anybody who wants
to buy?"

"Whose is he?" asked the man.

"He's mine!" shouted Bartley. "Do you think I stole him?"

"I don't know where you got him," said the man, walking off, and making a
soft play of red and green lights on the snow beyond the narrow platform.

Bartley went into the great ugly barn of a station, trembling, and sat down
in one of the gouged and whittled arm-chairs near the stove. A pomp of
timetables and luminous advertisements of Western railroads and their
land-grants decorated the wooden walls of the gentlemen's waiting-room,
which had been sanded to keep the gentlemen from writing and sketching upon
them. This was the more judicious because the ladies' room, in the absence
of tourist travel, was locked in winter, and they were obliged to share the
gentlemen's. In summer, the Junction was a busy place, but after the snow
fell, and until the snow thawed, it was a desolation relieved only by the
arrival of the sparsely peopled through-trains from the north and east, and
by such local travellers as wished to take trains not stopping at their own
stations. These broke in upon the solitude of the joint station-master and
baggage-man and switch-tender with just sufficient frequency to keep him
in a state of uncharitable irritation and unrest. To-night Bartley was the
sole intruder, and he sat by the stove wrapped in a cloud of rebellious
memories, when one side of a colloquy without made itself heard.

"What?"

Some question was repeated.

"No; it went down half an hour ago."

An inaudible question followed.

"Next down-train at eleven."

There was now a faintly audible lament or appeal.

"Guess you'll have to come earlier next time. Most folks doos that wants to
take it."

Bartley now heard the despairing moan of a woman: he had already divined
the sex of the futile questioner whom the station-master was bullying; but
he had divined it without compassion, and if he had not himself been a
sufferer from the man's insolence he might even have felt a ferocious
satisfaction in it. In a word, he was at his lowest and worst when the
door opened and the woman came in, with a movement at once bewildered and
daring, which gave him the impression of a despair as complete and final as
his own. He doggedly kept his place; she did not seem to care for him, but
in the uncertain light of the lamp above them she drew near the stove, and,
putting one hand to her pocket as if to find her handkerchief, she flung
aside her veil with her other, and showed her tear stained face.

He was on his feet somehow. "Marcia!"

"Oh! Bartley--"

He had seized her by the arm to make sure that she was there in verity of
flesh and blood, and not by some trick of his own senses, as a cold chill
running over him had made him afraid. At the touch their passion ignored
all that they had made each other suffer; her head was on his breast, his
embrace was round her; it was a moment of delirious bliss that intervened
between the sorrows that had been and the reasons that must come.

"What--what are you doing here, Marcia?" he asked at last.

They sank on the benching that ran round the wall; he held her hands fast
in one of his, and kept his other arm about her as they sat side by side.

"I don't know--I--" She seemed to rouse herself by an effort from her
rapture. "I was going to see Nettie Spaulding. And I saw you driving past
our house; and I thought you were coming here; and I couldn't bear--I
couldn't bear to let you go away without telling you that I was wrong; and
asking--asking you to forgive me. I thought you would do it,--I thought you
would know that I had behaved that way because I--I--cared so much for you.
I thought--I was afraid you had gone on the other train--" She trembled and
sank back in his embrace, from which she had lifted herself a little.

"How did you get here?" asked Bartley, as if willing to give himself all
the proofs he could of the every-day reality of her presence.

"Andy Morrison brought me. Father sent him from the hotel. I didn't care
what you would say to me, I wanted to tell you that I was wrong, and not
let you go away feeling that--that--you were all to blame. I thought when
I had done that you might drive me away,--or laugh at me, or anything you
pleased, if only you would let me take back--"

"Yes," he answered dreamily. All that wicked hardness was breaking up
within him; he felt it melting drop by drop in his heart. This poor
love-tossed soul, this frantic, unguided, reckless girl, was an angel of
mercy to him, and in her folly and error a messenger of heavenly peace and
hope. "I am a bad fellow, Marcia," he faltered. "You ought to know that.
You did right to give me up. I made love to Hannah Morrison; I never
promised to marry her, but I made her think that I was fond of her."

"I don't care for that," replied the girl. "I told you when we were first
engaged that I would never think of anything that had gone before that;
and then when I would not listen to a word from you, that day, I broke my
promise."

"When I struck Henry Bird because he was jealous of me, I was as guilty as
if I had killed him."

"If you had killed him, I was bound to you by my word. Your striking him
was part of the same thing,--part of what I had promised I never would
care for." A gush of tears came into his eyes, and she saw them. "Oh, poor
Bartley! Poor Bartley!"

She took his head between her hands and pressed it hard against her heart,
and then wrapped her arms tight about him, and softly bemoaned him.

They drew a little apart when the man came in with his lantern, and set it
down to mend the fire. But as a railroad employee he was far too familiar
with the love that vaunts itself on all railroad trains to feel that he was
an intruder. He scarcely looked at them, and went out when he had mended
the fire, and left it purring.

"Where is Andy Morrison?" asked Bartley. "Has he gone back?"

"No; he is at the hotel over there. I told him to wait till I found out
when the train went north."

"So you inquired when it went to Boston," said Bartley, with a touch of his
old raillery. "Come," he added, taking her hand under his arm. He led her
out of the room, to where his cutter stood outside. She was astonished to
find the colt there.

"I wonder I didn't see it. But if I had, I should have thought that you had
sold it and gone away; Andy told me you were coming here to sell the colt.
When the man told me the express was gone, I knew you were on it."

They found the boy stolidly waiting for Marcia on the veranda of the hotel,
stamping first upon one foot and then the other, and hugging himself in his
great-coat as the coming snow-fall blew its first flakes in his face.

"Is that you, Andy?" asked Bartley.

"Yes, sir," answered the boy, without surprise at finding him with Marcia.

"Well, here! Just take hold of the colt's head a minute."

As the boy obeyed, Bartley threw the reins on the dashboard, and leaped out
of the cutter, and went within. He returned after a brief absence, followed
by the landlord.

"Well, it ain't more 'n a mile 'n a half, if it's that. You just keep
straight along this street, and take your first turn to the left, and
you're right at the house; it's the first house on the left-hand side."

"Thanks," returned Bartley. "Andy, you tell the Squire that you left Marcia
with me, and I said I would see about her getting back. You needn't hurry."

"All right," said the boy, and he disappeared round the corner of the house
to get his horse from the barn.

"Well, I'll be all ready by the time you're here," said the landlord, still
holding the hall-door ajar, "Luck _to_ you!" he shouted, shutting it.

Marcia locked both her hands through Bartley's arm, and leaned her head on
his shoulder. Neither spoke for some minutes; then he asked, "Marcia, do
you know where you are?"

"With you," she answered, in a voice of utter peace.

"Do you know where we are going?" he asked, leaning over to kiss her cold,
pure cheek.

"No," she answered in as perfect content as before.

"We are going to get married."

He felt her grow tense in her clasp upon his arm, and hold there rigidly
for a moment, while the swift thoughts whirled through her mind. Then, as
if the struggle had ended, she silently relaxed, and leaned more heavily
against him.

"There's still time to go back, Marcia," he said, "if you wish. That turn
to the right, yonder, will take us to Equity, and you can be at home in two
hours." She quivered. "I'm a poor man,--I suppose you know that; I've only
got fifteen dollars in the world, and the colt here. I know I can get on;
I'm not afraid for myself; but if you would rather wait,--if you're not
perfectly certain of yourself,--remember, it's going to be a struggle;
we're going to have some hard times--"

"You forgive me?" she huskily asked, for all answer, without moving her
head from where it lay.

"Yes, Marcia."

"Then--hurry."

The minister was an old man, and he seemed quite dazed at the suddenness
of their demand for his services. But he gathered himself together,
and contrived to make them man and wife, and to give them his marriage
certificate.

"It seems as if there were something else," he said, absently, as he handed
the paper to Bartley.

"Perhaps it's this," said Bartley, giving him a five-dollar note in return.

"Ah, perhaps," he replied, in unabated perplexity. He bade them serve God,
and let them out into the snowy night, through which they drove back to the
hotel.

The landlord had kindled a fire on the hearth of the Franklin stove in his
parlor, and the blazing hickory snapped in electrical sympathy with the
storm when they shut themselves into the bright room, and Bartley took
Marcia fondly into his arms.

"Wife!"

"Husband!"

They sat down before the fire, hand in hand, and talked of the light things
that swim to the top, and eddy round and round on the surface of our
deepest moods. They made merry over the old minister's perturbation, which
Bartley found endlessly amusing. Then he noticed that the dress Marcia had
on was the one she had worn to the sociable in Lower Equity, and she said,
yes, she had put it on because he once said he liked it. He asked her when,
and she said, oh, she knew; but if he could not remember, she was not going
to tell him. Then she wanted to know if he recognized her by the dress
before she lifted her veil in the station.

"No," he said, with a teasing laugh. "I wasn't thinking of you."

"Oh, Bartley!" she joyfully reproached him. "You must have been!"

"Yes, I was! I was so mad at you, that I was glad to have that brute of a
station-master bullying _some_ woman!"

"Bartley!"

He sat holding her hand. "Marcia," he said, gravely, "we must write to your
father at once, and tell him. I want to begin life in the right way, and I
think it's only fair to him."

She was enraptured at his magnanimity. "Bartley! That's _like_ you! Poor
father! I declare--Bartley, I'm afraid I had forgotten him! It's dreadful;
but--_you_ put everything else out of my head. I do believe I've died and
come to life somewhere else!"

"Well, _I_ haven't," said Bartley, "and I guess you'd better write to your
father. _You'd_ better write; at present, he and I are not on speaking
terms. Here!" He took out his note-book, and gave her his stylographic pen
after striking the fist that held it upon his other fist, in the fashion of
the amateurs of that reluctant instrument, in order to bring down the ink.

"Oh, what's that?" she asked.

"It's a new kind of pen. I got it for a notice in the Free Press."

"Is Henry Bird going to edit the paper?"

"I don't know, and I don't care," answered Bartley.

"I'll go out and get an envelope, and ask the landlord what's the quickest
way to get the letter to your father."

He took up his hat, but she laid her hand on his arm. "Oh, send for him!"
she said.

"Are you afraid I sha'n't come back?" he demanded, with a laughing kiss. "I
want to see him about something else, too."

"Well, don't be gone long."

They parted with an embrace that would have fortified older married people
for a year's separation. When Bartley came back, she handed him the leaf
she had torn out of his book, and sat down beside him while he read it,
with her arm over his shoulder.

"Dear father," the letter ran, "Bartley and I are married. We were married
an hour ago, just across the New Hampshire line, by the Rev. Mr. Jessup.
Bartley wants I should let you know the very first thing. I am going to
Boston with Bartley to-night, and, as soon as we get settled there, I will
write again. I want you should forgive us both; but if you wont forgive
Bartley, you mustn't forgive me. You were mistaken about Bartley, and I was
right. Bartley has told me everything, and I am perfectly satisfied. Love
to mother.

"MARCIA."

"P.S.--I _did_ intend to visit Netty Spaulding. But I saw Bartley driving
past on his way to the Junction, and I determined to see him if I could
before he started for Boston, and tell him I was all wrong, no matter what
he said or did afterwards. I ought to have told you I meant to see Bartley;
but then you would not have let me come, and if I had not come, I should
have died."

"There's a good deal of Bartley in it," said the young man with a laugh.

"You don't like it!"

"Yes, I do; it's all right. Did you use to take the prize for composition
at boarding-school?"

"Why, I think it's a very good letter for when I'm in such an excited
state."

"It's beautiful!" cried Bartley, laughing more and more. The tears started
to her eyes.

"Marcia," said her husband fondly, "what a child you are! If ever I do
anything to betray your trust in me--"

There came a shuffling of feet outside the door, a clinking of glass and
crockery, and a jarring sort of blow, as if some one were trying to rap on
the panel with the edge of a heavy-laden waiter. Bartley threw the door
open and found the landlord there, red and smiling, with the waiter in his
hand.

"I thought I'd bring your supper in here, you know," he explained
confidentially, "so 's't you could have it a little more snug. And my wife
she kind o' got wind o' what was going on,--women will, you know," he said
with a wink,--"and she's sent ye in some hot biscuit and a little jell, and
some of her cake." He set the waiter down on the table, and stood admiring
its mystery of napkined dishes. "She guessed you wouldn't object to some
cold chicken, and she's put a little of that on. Sha'n't cost ye any more,"
he hastened to assure them. "Now this is your room till the train comes,
and there aint agoin' to anybody come in here. So you can make yourselves
at home. And _I_ hope you'll enjoy your supper as much as we did ourn the
night _we_ was married. There! I guess I'll let the lady fix the table; she
looks as if she knowed how."

He got himself out of the room again, and then Marcia, who had made him
some embarrassed thanks, burst out in praise of his pleasantness.

"Well, he ought to be pleasant," said Bartley, "he's just beaten me on a
horse-trade. I've sold him the colt."

"Sold him the colt!" cried Marcia, tragically dropping the napkin she had
lifted from the plate of cold chicken.

"Well, we couldn't very well have taken him to Boston with us. And we
couldn't have got there without selling him. You know you haven't married a
millionnaire, Marcia."

"How much did you get for the colt?"

"Oh, I didn't do so badly. I got a hundred and fifty for him."

"And you had fifteen besides."

"That was before we were married. I gave the minister five for you,--I
think you are worth it, I wanted to give fifteen."

"Well, then, you have a hundred and sixty now. Isn't that a great deal?"

"An everlasting lot," said Bartley, with an impatient laugh. "Don't let the
supper cool, Marcia!"

She silently set out the feast, but regarded it ruefully. "You oughtn't to
have ordered so much, Bartley," she said. "You couldn't afford it."

"I can afford anything when I'm hungry. Besides. I only ordered the oysters
and coffee; all the rest is conscience money--or sentiment--from the
landlord. Come, come! cheer up, now! We sha'n't starve to-night, anyhow."

"Well, I know father will help us."

"We sha'n't count on him," said Bartley. "Now _drop_ it!" He put his arm
round her shoulders and pressed her against him, till she raised her face
for his kiss.

"Well, I _will!"_ she said, and the shadow lifted itself from their wedding
feast, and they sat down and made merry as if they had all the money in the
world to spend. They laughed and joked; they praised the things they liked,
and made fun of the others.

"How strange! How perfectly impossible it all seems! Why, last night I was
taking supper at Kinney's logging-camp, and hating you at every mouthful
with all my might. Everything seemed against me, and I was feeling ugly,
and flirting like mad with a fool from Montreal: she had come out there
from Portland for a frolic with the owners' party. You made me do it,
Marcia!" he cried jestingly. "And remember that, if you want me to be good,
you must be kind. The other thing seems to make me worse and worse."

"I will,--I will, Bartley." she said humbly. "I will try to be kind and
patient with you. I will indeed."

He threw back his head, and laughed and laughed. "Poor--poor old Kinney!
He's the cook, you know, and he thought I'd been making fun of him to that
woman, and he behaved so, after they were gone, that I started home in a
rage; and he followed me out with his hands all covered with dough, and
wanted to stop me, but he couldn't for fear of spoiling my clothes--" He
lost himself in another paroxysm.

Marcia smiled a little. Then, "What sort of a looking person was she?" she
tremulously asked.

Bartley stopped abruptly. "Not one ten-thousandth part as good-looking,
nor one millionth part as bright, as Marcia Hubbard!" He caught her and
smothered her against his breast.

"I don't care! I don't care!" she cried. "I was to blame more than you,
if you flirted with her, and it serves me right. Yes, I will never say
anything to you for anything that happened after I behaved so to you."

"There wasn't anything else happened," cried Bartley. "And the Montreal
woman snubbed me soundly before she was done with me."

"Snubbed you!" exclaimed Marcia, with illogical indignation. This delighted
Bartley so much that it was long before he left off laughing over her.

Then they sat down, and were silent till she said, "And did you leave him
in a temper?"

"Who? Kinney? In a perfect devil of a temper. I wouldn't even borrow some
money he wanted to lend me."

"Write to him, Bartley," said his wife, seriously. "I love you so I can't
bear to have anybody bad friends with you."



XIII.


The whole thing was so crazy, as Bartley said, that it made no difference
if they kept up the expense a few days longer. He took a hack from the
depot when they arrived in Boston, and drove to the Revere House, instead
of going up in the horse-car. He entered his name on the register with a
flourish, "Bartley J. Hubbard and Wife, _Boston_," and asked for a room and
fire, with laconic gruffness; but the clerk knew him at once for a country
person, and when the call-boy followed him into the parlor where Marcia
sat, in the tremor into which she fell whenever Bartley was out of her
sight, the call-boy discerned her provinciality at a glance, and made free
to say that he guessed they had better let him take their things up to
their room, and come up themselves after the porter had got their fire
going.

"All right," said Bartley, with hauteur; and he added, for no reason, "Be
quick about it."

"Yes, sir," said the boy.

"What time is supper--dinner, I mean?"

"It's ready now, sir."

"Good. Take up the things. Come just as you are, Marcia. Let him take your
cap,--no, keep it on; a good many of them come down in their bonnets."

Marcia put off her sack and gloves, and hastily repaired the ravages of
travel as best she could. She would have liked to go to her room just long
enough to brush her hair a little, and the fur cap made her head hot; but
she was suddenly afraid of doing something that would seem countrified in
Bartley's eyes, and she promptly obeyed: they had come from Portland in a
parlor car, and she had been able to make a traveller's toilet before they
reached Boston.

She had been at Portland several times with her father; but he stopped at a
second-class hotel where he had always "put up" when alone, and she was new
to the vastness of hotel mirrors and chandeliers, the glossy paint, the
frescoing, the fluted pillars, the tessellated marble pavements upon which
she stepped when she left the Brussels carpeting of the parlors. She clung
to Bartley's arm, silently praying that she might not do anything to
mortify him, and admiring everything he did with all her soul. He made a
halt as they entered the glittering dining-room, and stood frowning till
the head-waiter ran respectfully up to them, and ushered them with sweeping
bows to a table, which they had to themselves. Bartley ordered their dinner
with nonchalant ease, beginning with soup and going to black coffee with
dazzling intelligence. While their waiter was gone with their order, he
beckoned with one finger to another, and sent him out for a paper, which he
unfolded and spread on the table, taking a toothpick into his mouth, and
running the sheet over with his eyes. "I just want to see what's going on
to-night," he said, without looking at Marcia.

She made a little murmur of acquiescence in her throat, but she could not
speak for strangeness. She began to steal little timid glances about, and
to notice the people at the other tables. In her heart she did not find the
ladies so very well dressed as she had expected the Boston ladies to be;
and there was no gentleman there to compare with Bartley, either in style
or looks. She let her eyes finally dwell on him, wishing that he would put
his paper away and say something, but afraid to ask, lest it should not be
quite right: all the other gentlemen were reading papers. She was feeling
lonesome and homesick, when he suddenly glanced at her and said, "How
pretty you look, Marsh!"

"Do I?" she asked, with a little grateful throb, while her eyes joyfully
suffused themselves.

"Pretty as a pink," he returned. "Gay,--isn't it?" he continued, with a
wink that took her into his confidence again, from which his study of the
newspaper had seemed to exclude her. "I'll tell you what I'm going to
do: I'm going to take you to the Museum after dinner, and let you see
Boucicault in the 'Colleen Bawn.'" He swept his paper off the table and
unfolded his napkin in his lap, and, leaning back in his chair, began to
tell her about the play. "We can walk: it's only just round the corner," he
said at the end.

Marcia crept into the shelter of his talk,--he sometimes spoke rather
loud,--and was submissively silent. When they got into their own
room,--which had gilt lambrequin frames, and a chandelier of three burners,
and a marble mantel, and marble-topped table and washstand,--and Bartley
turned up the flaring gas, she quite broke down, and cried on his breast,
to make sure that she had got him all back again.

"Why, Marcia!" he said. "I know just how you feel. Don't you suppose I
understand as well as you do that we're a country couple? But I'm not going
to give myself away; and you mustn't, either. There wasn't a woman in that
room that could compare with you,--_dress_ or looks!"

"You were splendid," she whispered, "and just like the rest! and that made
me feel somehow as if I had lost you."

"I know,--I saw just how you felt; but I wasn't going to say anything for
fear you'd give way right there. Come, there's plenty of time before
the play begins. I call this _nice_! Old-fashioned, rather, in the
decorations," he said, "but pretty good for its time." He had pulled up two
arm-chairs in front of the glowing grate of anthracite; as he spoke, he
cast his eyes about the room, and she followed his glance obediently. He
had kept her hand in his, and now he held her slim finger-tips in the fist
which he rested on his knee. "No; I'll tell you what, Marcia, if you want
to get on in a city, there's no use being afraid of people. No use being
afraid of _anything_, so long as we're good to each other. And you've got
to believe in me right along. Don't you let anything get you on the wrong
track. I believe that as long as you have faith in me, I shall deserve it;
and when you don't--"

"Oh, Bartley, you know I didn't doubt you! I just got to thinking, and I
was a little worked up! I suppose I'm excited."

"I knew it! I knew it!" cried her husband. "Don't you suppose I understand
_you?"_

They talked a long time together, and made each other loving promises of
patience. They confessed their faults, and pledged each other that they
would try hard to overcome them. They wished to be good; they both felt
they had much to retrieve; but they had no concealments, and they knew
that was the best way to begin the future, of which they did their best to
conceive seriously. Bartley told her his plans about getting some newspaper
work till he could complete his law studies. He meant to settle down to
practice in Boston. "You have to wait longer for it than you would in a
country place; but when you get it, it's worth while." He asked Marcia
whether she would look up his friend Halleck if she were in his place; but
he did not give her time to decide. "I guess I won't do it. Not just yet,
at any rate. He might suppose that I wanted something of him. I'll call on
him when I don't need his help."

Perhaps, if they had not planned to go to the theatre, they would have
staid where they were, for they were tired, and it was very cosey. But when
they were once in the street, they were glad they had come out. Bowdoin
Square and Court Street and Tremont Row were a glitter of gas-lights, and
those shops, with their placarded bargains, dazzled Marcia.

"Is it one of the principal streets?" she asked Bartley.

He gave the laugh of a veteran _habitué_ of Boston. "Tremont Row? No. Wait
till I show you Washington Street to-morrow. There's the Museum," he said,
pointing to the long row of globed lights on the façade of the building.
"Here we are in Scollay Square. There's Hanover Street; there's Cornhill;
Court crooks down that way; there's Pemberton Square."

His familiarity with these names estranged him to her again; she clung the
closer to his arm, and caught her breath nervously as they turned in with
the crowd that was climbing the stairs to the box-office of the theatre.
Bartley left her a moment, while he pushed his way up to the little window
and bought the tickets. "First-rate seats," he said, coming back to her,
and taking her hand under his arm again, "and a great piece of luck. They
were just returned for sale by the man in front of me, or I should have had
to take something 'way up in the gallery. There's a regular jam. These are
right in the centre of the parquet."

Marcia did not know what the parquet was; she heard its name with the
certainty that but for Bartley she should not be equal to it. All her
village pride was quelled; she had only enough self-control to act upon
Bartley's instructions not to give herself away by any conviction of
rusticity. They passed in through the long, colonnaded vestibule, with its
paintings, and plaster casts, and rows of birds and animals in glass cases
on either side, and she gave scarcely a glance at any of those objects,
endeared by association, if not by intrinsic beauty, to the Boston
play-goer. Gulliver, with the Liliputians swarming upon him; the
painty-necked ostriches and pelicans; the mummied mermaid under a glass
bell; the governors' portraits; the stuffed elephant; Washington crossing
the Delaware; Cleopatra applying the asp; Sir William Pepperell, at full
length, on canvas; and the pagan months and seasons in plaster,--if all
these are, indeed, the subjects,--were dim phantasmagoria amid which she
and Bartley moved scarcely more real. The usher, in his dress-coat, ran up
the aisle to take their checks, and led them down to their seats; half a
dozen elegant people stood to let them into their places; the theatre was
filled with faces. At Portland, where she saw the "Lady of Lyons," with her
father, three-quarters of the house was empty.

Bartley only had time to lean over and whisper, "The place is packed with
Beacon Street swells,--it's a regular field night,"--when the bell tinkled
and the curtain rose.

As the play went on, the rich jacqueminot-red flamed into her cheeks, and
burnt there a steady blaze to the end. The people about her laughed and
clapped, and at times they seemed to be crying. But Marcia sat through
every part as stoical as a savage, making no sign, except for the flaming
color in her cheeks, of interest or intelligence. Bartley talked of the
play all the way home, but she said nothing, and in their own room he
asked: "Didn't you really like it? Were you disappointed? I haven't been
able to get a word out of you about it. Didn't you like Boucicault?"

"I didn't know which he was," she answered, with impassioned exaltation. "I
didn't care for him. I only thought of that poor girl, and her husband who
despised her--"

She stopped. Bartley looked at her a moment, and then caught her to him and
fell a-laughing over her, till it seemed as if he never would end. "And you
thought--you thought," he cried, trying to get his breath,--"you thought
you were Eily, and I was Hardress Cregan! Oh, I see, I see!" He went on
making a mock and a burlesque of her tragical hallucination till she
laughed with him at last. When he put his hand up to turn out the gas, he
began his joking afresh. "The real thing for Hardress to do," he said,
fumbling for the key, "is to _blow_ it out. That's what Hardress usually
does when he comes up from the rural districts with Eily on their bridal
tour. That finishes off Eily, without troubling Danny Mann. The only
drawback is that it finishes off Hardress, too: they're both found
suffocated in the morning."



XIV.


The next day, after breakfast, while they stood together before the parlor
fire, Bartley proposed one plan after another for spending the day. Marcia
rejected them all, with perfectly recovered self-composure.

"Then what _shall_ we do?" he asked, at last.

"Oh, I don't know," she answered, rather absently. She added, after an
interval, smoothing the warm front of her dress, and putting her foot on
the fender, "What did those theatre-tickets cost?"

"Two dollars," he replied carelessly. "Why?"

Marcia gasped. "Two dollars! Oh, Bartley, we couldn't afford it!"

"It seems we did."

"And here,--how much are we paying here?"

"That room, with fire," said Bartley, stretching himself, "is seven dollars
a day--"

"We mustn't stay another instant!" said Marcia, all a woman's terror of
spending money on anything but dress, all a wife's conservative instinct,
rising within her. "How much have you got left?"

Bartley took out his pocket-book and counted over the bills in it. "A
hundred and twenty dollars."

"Why, what has become of it all? We had a hundred and sixty!"

"Well, our railroad tickets were nineteen, the sleeping-car was three, the
parlor-car was three, the theatre was two, the hack was fifty cents, and
we'll have to put down the other two and a half to refreshments."

Marcia listened in dismay. At the end she drew a long breath. "Well, we
must go away from here as soon as possible,--that I know. We'll go out and
find some boarding-place. That's the first thing."

"Oh, now, Marcia, you're not going to be so severe as that, are you?"
pleaded Bartley. "A few dollars, more or less, are not going to keep us out
of the poorhouse. I just want to stay here three days: that will leave us
a clean hundred, and we can start fair." He was half joking, but she was
wholly serious.

"No, Bartley! Not another hour,--not another minute! Come!" She took his
arm and bent it up into a crook, where she put her hand, and pulled him
toward the door.

"Well, after all," he said, "it will be some fun looking up a room."

There was no one else in the parlor; in going to the door they took some
waltzing steps together.

While she dressed to go out, he looked up places where rooms were let with
or without board, in the newspaper. "There don't seem to be a great many,"
he said meditatively, bending over the open sheet. But he cut out half a
dozen advertisements with his editorial scissors, and they started upon
their search.

They climbed those pleasant old up-hill streets that converge to the State
House, and looked into the houses on the quiet Places that stretch from one
thoroughfare to another. They had decided that they would be content with
two small rooms, one for a chamber, and the other for a parlor, where they
could have a fire. They found exactly what they wanted in the first house
where they applied, one flight up, with sunny windows, looking down the
street; but it made Marcia's blood run cold when the landlady said that
the price was thirty dollars a week. At another place the rooms were only
twenty; the position was as good, and the carpet and furniture prettier.
This was still too dear, but it seemed comparatively reasonable till it
appeared that this was the price without board.

"I think we should prefer rooms with board, shouldn't we?" asked Bartley,
with a sly look at Marcia.

The prices were of all degrees of exorbitance, and they varied for no
reason from house to house; one landlady had been accustomed to take more
and another less, but never little enough for Marcia, who overruled Bartley
again and again when he wished to close with some small abatement of terms.
She declared now that they must put up with one room, and they must not
care what floor it was on. But the cheapest room with board was fourteen
dollars a week, and Marcia had fixed her ideal at ten: even that was too
high for them.

"The best way will be to go back to the Revere House, at seven dollars
a day," said Bartley. He had lately been leaving the transaction of the
business entirely to Marcia, who had rapidly acquired alertness and
decision in it.

She could not respond to his joke. "What is there left?" she asked.

"There isn't anything left," he said. "We've got to the end."

They stood on the edge of the pavement and looked up and down the street,
and then, by a common impulse, they looked at the house opposite, where a
placard in the window advertised, "Apartments to Let--to Gentlemen only."

"It would be of no use asking there," murmured Marcia, in sad abstraction.

"Well, let's go over and try," said her husband. "They can't do more than
turn us out of doors."

"I know it won't be of any use," Marcia sighed, as people do when they
hope to gain something by forbidding themselves hope. But she helplessly
followed, and stood at the foot of the door-steps while he ran up and rang.

It was evidently the woman of the house who came to the door and shrewdly
scanned them.

"I see you have apartments to let," said Bartley.

"Well, yes," admitted the woman, as if she considered it useless to deny
it, "I have."

"I should like to look at them," returned Bartley, with promptness. "Come,
Marcia." And, reinforced by her, he invaded the premises before the
landlady had time to repel him. "I'll tell you what we want," he continued,
turning into the little reception-room at the side of the door, "and if you
haven't got it, there's no need to trouble you. We want a fair-sized room,
anywhere between the cellar-floor and the roof, with a bed and a stove and
a table in it, that sha'n't cost us more than ten dollars a week, with
board."

"Set down," said the landlady, herself setting the example by sinking into
the rocking-chair behind her and beginning to rock while she made a brief
study of the intruders. "Want it for yourselves?"

"Yes," said Bartley.

"Well," returned the landlady, "I always _have_ preferred single
gentlemen."

"I inferred as much from a remark which you made in your front window,"
said Bartley, indicating the placard.

The landlady smiled. They were certainly a very pretty-appearing young
couple, and the gentleman was evidently up-and-coming. Mrs. Nash liked
Bartley, as most people of her grade did, at once. "It's always be'n my
exper'ence," she explained, with the lazily rhythmical drawl in which most
half-bred New-Englanders speak, "that I seemed to get along rather better
with gentlemen. They give less trouble--as a general rule," she added, with
a glance at Marcia, as if she did not deny that there were exceptions, and
Marcia might be a striking one.

Bartley seized his advantage. "Well, my wife hasn't been married long
enough to be unreasonable. I guess you'd get along."

They both laughed, and Marcia, blushing, joined them.

"Well, I thought when you first come up the steps you hadn't been
married--well, not a _great_ while," said the landlady.

"No," said Bartley. "It seems a good while to my wife; but we were only
married day before yesterday."

"The land!" cried Mrs. Nash.

"Bartley!" whispered Marcia, in soft upbraiding.

"What? Well, say last week, then. We were married last week, and we've come
to Boston to seek our fortune."

His wit overjoyed Mrs. Nash. "You'll find Boston an awful hard place to get
along," she said, shaking her head with a warning smile.

"I shouldn't think so, by the price Boston people ask for their rooms,"
returned Bartley. "If I had rooms to let, I should get along pretty
easily."

This again delighted the landlady. "I guess you aint goin' to get out of
spirits, anyway," she said. "Well," she continued, "I _have_ got a room 't
I guess would suit you. Unexpectedly vacated." She seemed to recur to the
language of an advertisement in these words, which she pronounced as if
reading them. "It's pretty high up," she said, with another warning shake
of the head.

"Stairs to get to it?" asked Bartley.

"Plenty of _stairs_."

"Well, when a place is pretty high up, I like to have plenty of stairs to
get to it. I guess we'll see it, Marcia." He rose.

"Well, I'll just go up and see if it's _fit_ to be seen, first," said the
landlady.

"Oh, Bartley!" said Marcia, when she had left them alone, "how _could_ you
joke so about our just being married!"

"Well, I saw she wanted awfully to ask. And anybody can tell by looking
at us, anyway. We can't keep that to ourselves, any more than we can our
greenness. Besides, it's money in our pockets; she'll take something off
our board for it, you'll see. Now, will you manage the bargaining from this
on? I stepped forward because the rooms were for gentlemen only."

"I guess I'd better," said Marcia.

"All right; then I'll take a back seat from this out."

"Oh, I do _hope_ it won't be too much!" sighed the young wife. "I'm so
_tired_, looking."

"You can come right along up," the landlady called down through the oval
spire formed by the ascending hand-rail of the stairs.

They found her in a broad, low room, whose ceiling sloped with the roof,
and had the pleasant irregularity of the angles and recessions of two
dormer windows. The room was clean and cosey; there was a table, and a
stove that could be used open or shut; Marcia squeezed Bartley's arm to
signify that it would do perfectly--if only the price would suit.

The landlady stood in the middle of the floor and lectured: "Now, there!
I get five dollars a week for this room; and I gen'ly let it to two
gentlemen. It's just been vacated by two gentlemen unexpectedly; and it's
hard to get gentlemen at this time the year; and that's the reason I
thought of takin' you. As I _say_, I don't much like ladies for inmates,
and so I put in the window 'for gentlemen only.' But it's no use bein' too
particular; I can't have the room layin' empty on my hands. If it suits
you, you can have it for four dollars. It's high up, and there's no use
tryin' to deny it. But there aint such another view as them winders
commands anywheres. You can see the harbor, and pretty much the whole
coast."

"Anything extra for the view?" said Bartley, glancing out.

"No, I throw that in."

"Does the price include gas and fire?" asked Marcia, sharpened as to all
details by previous interviews.

"It includes the gas, but it don't include the fire," said the landlady,
firmly. "And it's pretty low at that, as you've found out, I guess."

"Yes, it is low," said Marcia. "Bartley, I think we'd better take it."

She looked at him timidly, as if she were afraid he might not think it good
enough; she did not think it good enough for him, but she felt that they
must make their money go as far as possible.

"All _right_!" he said. "Then it's a bargain."

"And how much more will the board be?"

"Well, there," the landlady said, with candor, "I don't know as I can meet
your views. I don't ever give board. But there's plenty of houses right on
the street here where you can get day-board from four dollars a week up."

"Oh, dear!" sighed Marcia; "and that would make it twelve dollars!"

"Why, the dear suz, child!" exclaimed the landlady, "you didn't expect to
get it for less?"

"We must," said Marcia.

"Then you'll have to go to a mechanics' boardin'-house."

"I suppose we shall," she returned, dejectedly. Bartley whistled.

"Look here," said the landlady, "aint you from Down East, some'eres?"

Marcia started, as if the woman had recognized them. "Yes." she said.

"Well, now," said Mrs. Nash, "I'm from down Maine way myself, and I'll tell
you what I should do, if I was in your _place_. You don't want much of
anything tor breakfast or tea; you can boil you an egg on the stove here,
and you can make your own tea or coffee; and if I was you, I'd go out for
my dinners to an eatin'-house. I heard some my lodgers tellin' how they
done. Well, I heard the very gentlemen that occupied this room sayin' how
they used to go to an eatin'-house, and one 'd order one thing, and another
another, and then they'd halve it between 'em, and make out a first-rate
meal for about a quarter apiece. Plenty of places now where they give you a
cut o'lamb or rib-beef for a shillin', and they bring you bread and butter
and potato with it; an' it's always enough for two. That's what they
_said_. I haint never tried it myself; but as long as you haint got anybody
but yourselves to care for, there aint any reason why _you_ shouldn't."

They looked at each other.

"Well," added the landlady for a final touch, "_say_ fire. That stove won't
burn a great deal, anyway."

"All right," said Bartley, "we'll take the room--for a month, at least."

Mrs. Nash looked a little embarrassed. If she had made some concession to
the liking she had conceived for this pretty young couple, she could not
risk everything. "I always have to get the first week in advance--where
there ain't no reference," she suggested.

"Of course," said Bartley, and he took out his pocket-book, which he had a
boyish satisfaction in letting her see was well filled. "Now, Marcia," he
continued, looking at his watch, "I'll just run over to the hotel, and give
up our room before they get us in for dinner."

Marcia accepted Mrs. Nash's invitation to come and sit with her till the
chill was off the room; and she borrowed a pen and paper of her to write
home. The note she sent was brief: she was not going to seem to ask
anything of her father. But she was going to do what was right; she told
him where she was, and she sent her love to her mother. She would not speak
of her things; he might send them or not, as he chose; but she knew he
would. This was the spirit of her letter, and her training had not taught
her to soften and sweeten her phrase; but no doubt the old man, who was
like her, would understand that she felt no compunction for what she had
done, and that she loved him though she still defied him.

Bartley did not ask her what her letter was when she demanded a stamp of
him on his return; but he knew. He inquired of Mrs. Nash where these cheap
eating-houses were to be found, and he posted the letter in the first box
they came to, merely saying, "I hope you haven't been asking any favors,
Marsh?"

"No, indeed."

"Because I couldn't stand that."

Marcia had never dined in a restaurant, and she was somewhat bewildered by
the one into which they turned. There was a great show of roast, and steak,
and fish, and game, and squash and cranberry-pie in the window, and at
the door a tack was driven through a mass of bills of fare, two of which
Bartley plucked off as they entered, with a knowing air, and then threw on
the floor when he found the same thing on the table. The table had a marble
top, and a silver-plated castor in the centre. The plates were laid with
a coarse red doily in a cocked hat on each, and a thinly plated knife and
fork crossed beneath it; the plates were thick and heavy; the handle as
well as the blade of the knife was metal, and silvered. Besides the castor,
there was a bottle of Leicestershire sauce on the table, and salt in what
Marcia thought a pepper-box; the marble was of an unctuous translucence
in places, and showed the course of the cleansing napkin on its smeared
surface. The place was hot, and full of confused smells of cooking; all the
tables were crowded, so that they found places with difficulty, and pale,
plain girls, of the Provincial and Irish-American type, in fashionable
bangs and pull-backs, went about taking the orders, which they wailed out
toward a semicircular hole opening upon a counter at the farther end of the
room; there they received the dishes ordered, and hurried with them to the
customers, before whom they laid them with a noisy clacking of the heavy
crockery. A great many of the people seemed to be taking hulled corn and
milk; baked beans formed another favorite dish, and squash-pie was in large
request. Marcia was not critical; roast turkey for Bartley and stewed
chicken for herself, with cranberry-pie for both, seemed to her a very good
and sufficient dinner, and better than they ought to have had. She asked
Bartley if this were anything like Parker's; he had always talked to her
about Parker's.

"Well, Marcia," he said, folding up his doily, which does not betray use
like the indiscreet white napkin, "I'll just take you round and show you
the _outside_ of Parker's, and some day we'll go there and get dinner."

He not only showed her Parker's, but the City Hall; they walked down School
Street, and through Washington as far as Boylston: and Bartley pointed out
the Old South, and brought Marcia home by the Common, where they stopped to
see the boys coasting under the care of the police, between two long lines
of spectators.

"The State House," said Bartley, with easy command of the facts, and,
pointing in the several directions; "Beacon Street; Public Garden; Back
Bay."

She came home to Mrs. Nash joyfully admiring the city, but admiring still
more her husband's masterly knowledge of it.

Mrs. Nash was one of those people who partake intimately of the importance
of the place in which they live; to whom it is sufficient splendor and
prosperity to be a Bostonian, or New-Yorker, or Chicagoan, and who
experience a delicious self-flattery in the celebration of the municipal
grandeur. In his degree, Bartley was of this sort, and he exchanged
compliments of Boston with Mrs. Nash, till they grew into warm favor with
each other.

After a while, he said he must go up-stairs and do some writing; and then
he casually dropped the fact that he was an editor, and that he had come to
Boston to get an engagement on a newspaper; he implied that he had come to
take one.

"Well," said Mrs. Nash, smoothing the back of the cat, which she had in her
lap, "I guess there ain't anything like our Boston papers. And they say
this new one--the 'Daily Events'--is goin' to take the lead. You acquainted
any with our Boston editors?"

Bartley hemmed. "Well--I know the proprietor of the Events."

"Ah, yes: Mr. Witherby. Well, they say he's got the money. I hear my
lodgers talkin' about that paper consid'able. I haven't ever seen it."

Bartley now went up-stairs; he had an idea in his head. Marcia remained
with Mrs. Nash a few moments. "He's been in Boston before," she said, with
proud satisfaction; "he visited here when he was in college."

"Law, is he college-bred?" cried Mrs. Nash. "Well, I thought he looked
'most too wide-awake for that. He aint a bit offish. He seems _re'l_
practical. What you hurryin' off so for?" she asked, as Marcia rose, and
stood poised on the threshold, in act to follow her husband. "Why don't you
set here with me, while he's at his writin'? You'll just keep talkin to him
and takin' his mind off, the whole while. You stay here!" she commanded
hospitably. "You'll just be in the way, up there."

This was a novel conception to Marcia, but its good sense struck her.
"Well, I will," she said. "I'll run up a minute to leave my things, and
then I'll come back."

She found Bartley dragging the table, on which he had already laid out his
writing-materials, into a good light, and she threw her arms round his
neck, as if they had been a great while parted.

"Come up to kiss me good luck?" he asked, finding her lips.

"Yes, and to tell you how splendid you are, going right to work this way,"
she answered fondly.

"Oh, I don't believe in losing time; and I've got to strike while the
iron's hot, if I'm going to write out that logging-camp business. I'll take
it over to that Events man, and hit him with it, while it's fresh in his
mind."

"Yes," said Marcia. "Are you going to write that out?"

"Why, I told you I was. Any objections?" He did not pay much attention
to her, and he asked his question jokingly, as he went on making his
preparations.

"It's hard for me to realize that people can care for such things. I
thought perhaps you'd begin with something else," she suggested, hanging up
her sack and hat in the closet.

"No, that's the very thing to begin with," he answered, carelessly. "What
are you going to do? Want that book to read that I bought on the cars?"

"No, I'm going down to sit with Mrs. Nash while you're writing."

"Well, that's a good idea."

"You can call me when you've done."

"Done!" cried Bartley. "I sha'n't be done till this time to-morrow. I'm
going to make a lot about it."

"Oh!" said his wife. "Well, I suppose the more there is, the more you will
get for it. Shall you put in about those people coming to see the camp?"

"Yes, I think I can work that in so that old Witherby will like it.
Something about a distinguished Boston newspaper proprietor and his refined
and elegant ladies, as a sort of contrast to the rude life of the loggers."

"I thought you didn't admire them a great deal."

"Well, I didn't much. But I can work them up."

Marcia was quite ready to go; Bartley had seated himself at his table, but
she still hovered about. "And are you--shall you put that Montreal woman
in?"

"Yes, get it all in. She'll work up first-rate."

Marcia was silent. Then, "I shouldn't think you'd put her in," she said,
"if she was so silly and disagreeable."

Bartley turned around, and saw the look on her face that he could not
mistake. He rose and took her by the chin. "Look here, Marsh!" he said,
"didn't you promise me you'd stop that?"

"Yes," she murmured, while the color flamed into her cheeks.

"And will you?"

"I _did_ try--"

He looked sharply into her eyes. "Confound the Montreal woman! I won't put
in a word about her. There!" He kissed Marcia, and held her in his arms and
soothed her as if she had been a jealous child.

"Oh, Bartley! Oh, Bartley!" she cried. "I love you so!"

"I think it's a remark you made before," he said, and, with a final kiss
and laugh, he pushed her out of the door; and she ran down stairs to Mrs.
Nash again.

"Your husband ever write poetry, any?" inquired the landlady.

"No," returned Marcia; "he used to in college, but he says it don't pay."

"One my lodgers--well, she was a lady; you can't seem to get gentlemen
oftentimes in the summer season, for love or money, and I was puttin' up
with her,--breakin' joints, as you may say, for the time bein'--_she_ wrote
poetry; 'n' I guess she found it pretty poor pickin'. Used to write for the
weekly papers, she said, 'n' the child'n's magazines. Well, she couldn't
get more 'n a doll' or two, 'n' I do' know but what less, for a piece as
long as that." Mrs. Nash held her hands about a foot apart. "Used to show
'em to me, and tell me about 'em. I declare I used to pity her. I used to
tell her I ruther break stone for my livin'."

Marcia sat talking more than an hour to Mrs. Nash, informing herself upon
the history of Mrs. Nash's past and present lodgers, and about the ways of
the city, and the prices of provisions and dress-goods. The dearness of
everything alarmed and even shocked her; but she came back to her faith in
Bartley's ability to meet and overcome all difficulties. She grew drowsy
in the close air which Mrs. Nash loved, after all her fatigues and
excitements, and she said she guessed she would go up and see how Bartley
was getting on. But when she stole into the room and saw him busily
writing, she said, "Now I won't speak a word, Bartley," and coiled herself
down under a shawl on the bed, near enough to put her hand on his shoulder
if she wished, and fell asleep.



XV.


It took Bartley two days to write out his account of the logging-camp. He
worked it up to the best of his ability, giving all the facts that he had
got out of Kinney, and relieving these with what he considered picturesque
touches. He had the newspaper instinct, and he divined that his readers
would not care for his picturesqueness without his facts. He therefore
subordinated this, and he tried to give his description of the loggers a
politico-economical interest, dwelling upon the variety of nationalities
engaged in the industry, and the changes it had undergone in what he called
its _personnel_; he enlarged upon its present character and its future
development in relation to what he styled, in a line of small capitals,
with an early use of the favorite newspaper possessive,

COLUMBIA'S MORIBUND SHIP-BUILDING.

And he interspersed his text plentifully with exclamatory headings intended
to catch the eye with startling fragments of narration and statement, such
as

THE PINE-TREE STATE'S STORIED STAPLE

MORE THAN A MILLION OF MONEY

UNBROKEN WILDERNESS

WILD-CATS, LYNXES, AND BEARS

BITTEN OFF

BOTH LEGS FROZEN TO THE KNEES

CANADIAN SONGS

JOY UNCONFINED

THE LAMPLIGHT ON THEIR SWARTHY FACES.

He spent a final forenoon in polishing his article up, and stuffing it
full of telling points. But after dinner on this last day he took leave of
Marcia with more trepidation than he was willing to show, or knew how to
conceal. Her devout faith in his success seemed to unnerve him, and he
begged her not to believe in it so much.

He seized what courage he had left in both hands, and found himself, after
the usual reluctance of the people in the business office, face to face
with Mr. Witherby in his private room. Mr. Witherby had lately dismissed
his managing editor for his neglect of the true interests of the paper as
represented by the counting-room; and was managing the Events himself. He
sat before a table strewn with newspapers and manuscripts; and as he looked
up, Bartley saw that he did not recognize him.

"How do you do, Mr. Witherby? I had the pleasure of meeting you the other
day in Maine--at Mr. Willett's logging-camp. Hubbard is my name; remember
me as editor of the Equity Free Press."

"Oh, yes," said Mr. Witherby, rising and standing at his desk, as a sort
of compromise between asking his visitor to sit down and telling him to go
away. He shook hands in a loose way, and added: "I presume you would like
to exchange. But the fact is, our list is so large already, that we can't
extend it, just now; we can't--"

Bartley smiled. "I don't want any exchange, Mr. Witherby. I'm out of the
Free Press."

"Ah!" said the city journalist, with relief. He added, in a leading tone:
"Then--"

"I've come to offer you an article,--an account of lumbering in our State.
It's a little sketch that I've prepared from what I saw in Mr. Willett's
camp, and some facts and statistics I've picked up. I thought it might make
an attractive feature of your Sunday edition."

"The Events," said Mr. Witherby, solemnly, "does not publish a Sunday
edition!"

"Of course not," answered Bartley, inwardly cursing his blunder,--"I mean
your Saturday evening supplement." He handed him his manuscript.

Mr. Witherby looked at it, with the worry of a dull man who has assumed
unintelligible duties. He had let the other papers "get ahead of him"
on several important enterprises lately, and he would have been glad to
retrieve himself; but he could not be sure that this was an enterprise. He
began by saying that their last Saturday supplement was just out, and the
next was full; and he ended by declaring, with stupid pomp, that the Events
preferred to send its own reporters to write up those matters. Then he
hemmed, and looked at Bartley, and he would really have been glad to have
him argue him out of this position; but Bartley could not divine what was
in his mind. The cold fit, which sooner or later comes to every form of
authorship, seized him. He said awkwardly he was very sorry, and putting
his manuscript back in his pocket he went out, feeling curiously
light-headed, as if his rebuff had been a stunning blow. The affair was so
quickly over, that he might well have believed it had not happened. But he
was sickeningly disappointed; he had counted upon the sale of his article
to the Events; his hope had been founded upon actual knowledge of the
proprietor's intention; and although he had rebuked Marcia's overweening
confidence, he had expected that Witherby would jump at it. But Witherby
had not even looked at it.

Bartley walked a long time in the cold winter sunshine, fie would have
liked to go back to his lodging, and hide his face in Marcia's hands, and
let her pity him, but he could not bear the thought of her disappointment,
and he kept walking. At last he regained courage enough to go to the editor
of the paper for which he used to correspond in the summer, and which had
always printed his letters. This editor was busy, too, but he apparently
felt some obligations to civility with Bartley; and though he kept glancing
over his exchanges as they talked, he now and then glanced at Bartley also.
He said that he should be glad to print the sketch, but that they never
paid for outside material, and he advised Bartley to go with it to the
Events or to the Daily Chronicle-Abstract; the Abstract and the Brief
Chronicle had lately consolidated, and they were showing a good deal of
enterprise. Bartley said nothing to betray that he had already been at the
Events office, and upon this friendly editor's invitation to drop in again
some time he went away considerably re-inspirited.

"If you should happen to go to the Chronicle-Abstract folks," the editor
called after him, "you can tell them I suggested your coming."

The managing editor of the Chronicle-Abstract was reading a manuscript, and
he did not desist from his work on Bartley's appearance, which he gave no
sign of welcoming. But he had a whimsical, shrewd, kind face, and Bartley
felt that he should get on with him, though he did not rise, and though he
let Bartley stand.

"Yes," he said. "Lumbering, hey? Well, there's some interest in that, just
now, on account of this talk about the decay of our shipbuilding interests.
Anything on that point?"

"That's the very point I touch on first," said Bartley.

The editor stopped turning over his manuscript. "Let's see," he said,
holding out his hand for Bartley's article. He looked at the first
head-line, "What I Know about Logging," and smiled. "Old, but good." Then
he glanced at the other headings, and ran his eye down the long strips on
which Bartley had written; nibbled at the text here and there a little;
returned to the first paragraph, and read that through; looked back at
something else, and then read the close.

"I guess you can leave it," he said, laying the manuscript on the table.

"No, I guess not," said Bartley, with equal coolness, gathering it up.

The editor looked fairly at him for the first time, and smiled. Evidently
he liked this. "What's the reason? Any particular hurry?"

"I happen to know that the Events is going to send a man down East to write
up this very subject. And I don't propose to leave this article here till
they steal my thunder, and then have it thrown back on my hands not worth
the paper it's written on."

The editor tilted himself back in his chair and braced his knees against
his table. "Well, I guess you're right," he said. "What do you want for
it?"

This was a terrible question. Bartley knew nothing about the prices that
city papers paid; he feared to ask too much, but he also feared to cheapen
his wares by asking too little. "Twenty-five dollars," he said, huskily.

"Let's look at it," said the editor, reaching out his hand for the
manuscript again. "Sit down." He pushed a chair toward Bartley with his
foot, having first swept a pile of newspapers from it to the floor. He now
read the article more fully, and then looked up at Bartley, who sat still,
trying to hide his anxiety. "You're not quite a new hand at the bellows,
are you?"

"I've edited a country paper."

"Yes? Where?"

"Down in Maine."

The editor bent forward and took out a long, narrow blank-book. "I guess we
shall want your article What name?"

"Bartley J. Hubbard." It sounded in his ears like some other name.

"Going to be in Boston some time?"

"All the time," said Bartley, struggling to appear nonchalant. The
revulsion from the despair into which he had fallen after his interview
with Witherby was still very great. The order on the counting-room which
the editor had given him shook in his hand. He saw his way before him
clearly now; he wished to propose some other things that he would like
to write; but he was saved from this folly for the time by the editor's
saying, in a tone of dismissal: "Better come in to-morrow and see a proof.
We shall put you into the Wednesday supplement."

"Thanks," said Bartley. "Good day."

The editor did not hear him, or did not think it necessary to respond from
behind the newspaper which he had lifted up between them, and Bartley went
out. He did not stop to cash his order; he made boyish haste to show it to
Marcia, as something more authentic than the money itself, and more sacred.
As he hurried homeward he figured Marcia's ecstasy in his thought. He saw
himself flying up the stairs to their attic three steps at a bound, and
bursting into the room, where she sat eager and anxious, and flinging the
order into her lap; and then, when she had read it with rapture at the sum,
and pride in the smartness with which he had managed the whole affair,
he saw himself catching her up and dancing about the floor with her. He
thought how fond of her he was, and he wondered that he could ever have
been cold or lukewarm.

She was standing at the window of Mrs. Nash's little reception-room when he
reached the house. It was not to be as he had planned, but he threw her a
kiss, glad of the impatience which would not let her wait till he could
find her in their own room, and he had the precious order in his hand to
dazzle her eyes as soon as he should enter. But, as he sprang into the
hall, his foot struck against a trunk and some boxes.

"Hello!" he cried, "Your things have come!"

Marcia lingered within the door of the reception-room; she seemed afraid to
come out. "Yes," she said, faintly; "father brought them. He has just been
here."

He seemed there still, and the vision unnerved her as if Bartley and he had
been confronted there in reality. Her husband had left her hardly a quarter
of an hour, when a hack drove up to the door, and her father alighted. She
let him in herself, before he could ring, and waited tremulously for what
he should do or say. But he merely took her hand, and, stooping over, gave
her the chary kiss with which he used to greet her at home when he returned
from an absence.

She flung her arms around his neck. "Oh, father!"

"Well, well! There, there!" he said, and then he went into the
reception-room with her; and there was nothing in his manner to betray that
anything unusual had happened since they last met. He kept his hat on, as
his fashion was, and he kept on his overcoat, below which the skirts of his
dress-coat hung an inch or two; he looked old, and weary, and shabby.

"I can't leave Bartley, father," she began, hysterically.

"I haven't come to separate you from your husband, Marcia. What made you
think so? It's your place to stay with him."

"He's out, now," she answered, in an incoherent hopefulness. "He's just
gone. Will you wait and see him, father?"

"No, I guess I can't wait," said the old man. "It wouldn't do any good for
us to meet now."

"Do you think he coaxed me away? He didn't. He took pity on me,--he forgave
me. And I didn't mean to deceive you when I left home, father. But I
couldn't help trying to see Bartley again."

"I believe you, Marcia. I understand. The thing had to be. Let me see your
marriage certificate."

She ran up to her room and fetched it.

Her father read it carefully. "Yes, that is all right," he said, and
returned it to her. He added, after an absent pause: "I have brought your
things, Marcia. Your mother packed all she could think of."

"How _is_ mother?" asked Marcia, as if this had first reminded her of her
mother.

"She is usually well," replied her father.

"Won't you--won't you come up and see our room, father?" Marcia asked,
after the interval following this feint of interest in her mother.

"No," said the old man, rising restlessly from his chair, and buttoning at
his coat, which was already buttoned. "I guess I sha'n't have time. I guess
I must be going."

Marcia put herself between him and the door. "Won't you let me tell you
about it, father?"

"About what?"

"How--I came to go off with Bartley. I want you should know."

"I guess I know all I want to know about it, Marcia. I accept the facts.
I told you how I felt. What you've done hasn't changed me toward you. I
understand you better than you understand yourself; and I can't say that
I'm surprised. Now I want you should make the best of it."

"You don't forgive Bartley!" she cried, passionately. "Then I don't want
you should forgive me!"

"Where did you pick up this nonsense about forgiving?" said her father,
knitting his shaggy brows. "A man does this thing or that, and the
consequence follows. I couldn't forgive Bartley so that he could escape any
consequence of what he's done; and you're not afraid I shall hurt him?"

"Stay and see him!" she pleaded. "He is so kind to me! He works night and
day, and he has just gone out to sell something he has written for the
papers."

"I never said he was lazy," returned her father. "Do you want any money,
Marcia?"

"No, we have plenty. And Bartley is earning it all the time. I _wish_ you
would stay and see him!"

"No, I'm glad he didn't happen to be in," said the Squire. "I sha'n't wait
for him to come back. It wouldn't do any good, just yet, Marcia; it would
only do harm. Bartley and I haven't had time to change our minds about each
other yet. But I'll say a good word for him to you. You're his wife, and
it's your part to help him, not to hinder him. You can make him worse by
being a fool; but you needn't be a fool. Don't worry him about other women;
don't be jealous. He's your husband, now: and the worst thing you can do is
to doubt him."

"I won't, father, I won't, indeed! I will be good, and I will try to be
sensible. Oh, I _wish_ Bartley could know how you feel!"

"Don't tell him from _me_," said her father. "And don't keep making
promises and breaking them. I'll help the man in with your things."

He went out, and came in again with one end of a trunk, as if he had been
giving the man a hand with it into the house at home, and she suffered him
as passively as she had suffered him to do her such services all her life.
Then he took her hand laxly in his, and stooped down for another chary
kiss. "Good by, Marcia."

"Why, father! Are you going to _leave_ me?" she faltered.

He smiled in melancholy irony at the bewilderment, the childish
forgetfulness of all the circumstances, which her words expressed. "Oh, no!
I'm going to take you with me."

His sarcasm restored her to a sense of what she had said, and she ruefully
laughed at herself through her tears. "What am I talking about? Give my
love to mother. When will you come again?" she asked, clinging about him
almost in the old playful way.

"When you want me," said the Squire, freeing himself.

"I'll write!" she cried after him, as he went down the steps; and if there
had been, at any moment, a consciousness of her cruelty to him in her
heart, she lost it, when he drove away, in her anxious waiting for
Bartley's return. It seemed to her that, though her father had refused to
see him, his visit was of happy augury for future kindness between them,
and she was proudly eager to tell Bartley what good advice her father had
given her. But the sight of her husband suddenly turned these thoughts to
fear. She trembled, and all that she could say was, "I know father will be
all right, Bartley."

"How?" he retorted, savagely. "By the way he abused me to you? Where is
he?"

"He's gone,--gone back."

"I don't care where he's gone, so he's gone. Did he come to take you home
with him? Why didn't you go?--Oh, Marcia!" The brutal words had hardly
escaped him when he ran to her as if he would arrest them before their
sense should pierce her heart.

She thrust him back with a stiffly extended arm. "Keep away! Don't touch
me!" She walked by him up the stairs without looking round at him, and he
heard her close their door and lock it.



XVI.


Bartley stood for a moment, and then went out and wandered aimlessly about
till nightfall. He went out shocked and frightened at what he had done,
and ready for any reparation. But this mood wore away, and he came back
sullenly determined to let her make the advances toward reconciliation, if
there was to be one. Her love had already made his peace, and she met
him in the dimly lighted little hall with a kiss of silent penitence and
forgiveness. She had on her hat and shawl, as if she had been waiting for
him to come and take her out to tea; and on their way to the restaurant she
asked him of his adventure among the newspapers. He told her briefly, and
when they sat down at their table he took out the precious order and showed
it to her. But its magic was gone; it was only an order for twenty-five
dollars, now; and two hours ago it had been success, rapture, a common
hope and a common joy. They scarcely spoke of it, but talked soberly of
indifferent things.

She could not recur to her father's visit at once, and he would not be
the first to mention it. He did nothing to betray his knowledge of her
intention, as she approached the subject through those feints that women
use, and when they stood again in their little attic room she was obliged
to be explicit.

"What hurt me, Bartley," she said, "was that you should think for an
instant that I would let father ask me to leave you, or that he would ask
such a thing. He only came to tell me to be good to you, and help you, and
trust you; and not worry you with my silliness and--and--jealousy. And I
don't ever mean to. And I know he will be good friends with you yet. He
praised you for working so hard;"--she pushed it a little beyond the bare
fact;--"he always did that; and I know he's only waiting for a good chance
to make it up with you."

She lifted her eyes, glistening with tears, and it touched his peculiar
sense of humor to find her offering him reparation, when he had felt
himself so outrageously to blame; but he would not be outdone in
magnanimity, if it came to that.

"It's all right, Marsh. I was a furious idiot, or I should have let you
explain at once. But you see I had only one thought in my mind, and that
was my luck, which I wanted to share with you; and when your father seemed
to have come in between us again--"

"Oh, yes, yes!" she answered. "I understand." And she clung to him in
the joy of this perfect intelligence, which she was sure could never be
obscured again.

When Bartley's article came out, she read it with a fond admiration which
all her praises seemed to leave unsaid. She bought a scrap-book, and pasted
the article into it, and said that she was going to keep everything he
wrote. "What are you going to write the next thing?" she asked.

"Well, that's what I don't know," he answered. "I can't find another
subject like that, so easily."

"Why, if people care to read about a logging-camp, I should think they
would read about almost anything. Nothing could be too common for them.
You might even write about the trouble of getting cheap enough rooms in
Boston."

"Marcia," cried Bartley, "you're a treasure! I'll write about that very
thing! I know the Chronicle-Abstract will be glad to get it."

She thought he was joking, till he came to her after a while for some
figures which he did not remember. He had the true newspaper instinct,
and went to work with a motive that was as different as possible from the
literary motive. He wrote for the effect which he was to make, and not
from any artistic pleasure in the treatment. He did not attempt to give it
form,--to imagine a young couple like himself and Marcia coming down from
the country to place themselves in the city; he made no effort to throw
about it the poetry of their ignorance and their poverty, or the pathetic
humor of their dismay at the disproportion of the prices to their means.
He set about getting all the facts he could, and he priced a great many
lodgings in different parts of the city; then he went to a number
of real-estate agents, and, giving himself out as a reporter of the
Chronicle-Abstract, he interviewed them as to house-rents, past and
present. Upon these bottom facts, as he called them, he based a "spicy"
sketch, which had also largely the character of an _exposé_. There is
nothing the public enjoys so much as an _exposé_: it seems to be made in
the reader's own interest; it somehow constitutes him a party to the attack
upon the abuse, and its effectiveness redounds to the credit of all the
newspaper's subscribers. After a week's stay in Boston, Bartley was able
to assume the feelings of a native who sees his city falling into decay
through the rapacity of its landladies. In the heading of ten or fifteen
lines which he gave his sketch, the greater number were devoted to this
feature of it; though the space actually allotted to it in the text was
comparatively small. He called his report "Boston's Boarding-Houses," and
he spent a paragraph upon the relation of boarding-houses to civilization,
before detailing his own experience and observation. This part had many of
those strokes of crude picturesqueness and humor which he knew how to give,
and was really entertaining; but it was when he came to contrast the rates
of house-rent and the cost of provisions with the landladies'

"PERPENDICULAR PRICES,"

that Bartley showed all the virtue of a born reporter. The sentences were
vivid and telling; the _ensemble_ was very alarming; and the conclusion was
inevitable, that, unless this abuse could somehow be reached, we should
lose a large and valuable portion of our population,--especially those
young married people of small means with whom the city's future prosperity
so largely rested, and who must drift away to find homes in rival
communities if the present exorbitant demands were maintained.

As Bartley had foretold, he had not the least trouble in selling this
sketch to the Chronicle-Abstract. The editor probably understood its
essential cheapness perfectly well; but he also saw how thoroughly readable
it was. He did not grumble at the increased price which Bartley put
upon his work; it was still very far from dear; and he liked the young
Downeaster's enterprise. He gave him as cordial a welcome as an overworked
man may venture to offer when Bartley came in with his copy, and he felt
like doing him a pleasure. Some things out of the logging-camp sketch had
been copied, and people had spoken to the editor about it, which was a
still better sign that it was a hit.

"Don't you want to come round to our club to-night?" asked the editor, as
he handed Bartley the order for his money across the table. "We have a bad
dinner, and we try to have a good time. We're all newspaper men together."

"Why, thank you," said Bartley, "I guess I should like to go."

"Well, come round at half-past five, and go with me."

Bartley walked homeward rather soberly. He had meant, if he sold this
article, to make amends for the disappointment they had both suffered
before, and to have a commemorative supper with Marcia at Parker's: he had
ignored a little hint of hers about his never having taken her there yet,
because he was waiting for this chance to do it in style. He resolved that,
if she did not seem to like his going to the club, he would go back and
withdraw his acceptance. But when he told her he had been invited,--he
thought he would put the fact in this tentative way,--she said, "I hope you
accepted!"

"Would you have liked me to?" he asked with relief.

"Why, of course! It's a great honor. You'll get acquainted with all those
editors, and perhaps some of them will want to give you a regular place." A
salaried employment was their common ideal of a provision for their future.

"Well, that's what I was thinking myself," said Bartley.

"Go and accept at once," she pursued.

"Oh, that isn't necessary. If I get round there by half-past five, I can
go," he answered.

His lurking regret ceased when he came into the reception-room, where the
members of the club were constantly arriving, and putting off their hats
and overcoats, and then falling into groups for talk. His friend of the
Chronicle-Abstract introduced him lavishly, as our American custom is.
Bartley had a little strangeness, but no bashfulness, and, with his
essentially slight opinion of people, he was promptly at his ease. These
men liked his handsome face, his winning voice, the good-fellowship of his
instant readiness to joke; he could see that they liked him, and that his
friend Ricker was proud of the impression he made; before the evening was
over he kept himself with difficulty from patronizing Ricker a little.

The club has grown into something much more splendid and expensive; but it
was then content with a dinner certainly as bad as Ricker promised, but
fabulously modest in price, at an old-fashioned hotel, whose site was long
ago devoured by a dry-goods palace. The drink was commonly water or beer;
occasionally, if a great actor or other distinguished guest honored the
board, some spendthrift ordered champagne. But no one thought fit to go to
this ruinous extreme for Bartley. Ricker offered him his choice of beer or
claret, and Bartley temperately preferred water to either; he could see
that this raised him in Ricker's esteem.

No company of men can fail to have a good time at a public dinner, and the
good time began at once with these journalists, whose overworked week ended
in this Saturday evening jollity. They were mostly young men, who found
sufficient compensation in the excitement and adventure of their underpaid
labors, and in the vague hope of advancement; there were grizzled beards
among them, for whom neither the novelty nor the expectation continued, but
who loved the life for its own sake, and would hardly have exchanged it for
prosperity. Here and there was an old fellow, for whom probably all the
illusion was gone; but he was proud of his vocation, proud even of the
changes that left him somewhat superannuated in his tastes and methods.
None, indeed, who have ever known it, can wholly forget the generous rage
with which journalism inspires its followers. To each of those young men,
beginning the strangely fascinating life as reporters and correspondents,
his paper was as dear as his king once was to a French noble; to serve it
night and day, to wear himself out for its sake, to merge himself in its
glory, and to live in its triumphs without personal recognition from the
public, was the loyal devotion which each expected his sovereign newspaper
to accept as its simple right. They went and came, with the prompt and
passive obedience of soldiers, wherever they were sent, and they struggled
each to "get in ahead" of all the others with the individual zeal of
heroes. They expanded to the utmost limits of occasion, and they submitted
with an anguish that was silent to the editorial excision, compression, and
mutilation of reports that were vitally dear to them. What becomes of these
ardent young spirits, the inner history of journalism in any great city
might pathetically show; but the outside world knows them only in the fine
frenzy of interviewing, or of recording the midnight ravages of what they
call the devouring element, or of working up horrible murders or tragical
accidents, or of tracking criminals who have baffled all the detectives.
Hearing their talk Bartley began to realize that journalism might be a very
different thing from what he had imagined it in a country printing-office,
and that it might not be altogether wise to consider it merely as a
stepping-stone to the law.

With the American eagerness to recognize talent, numbers of good fellows
spoke to him about his logging sketch; even those who had not read it
seemed to know about it as a hit. They were all delighted to be able to
say, "Ricker tells me that you offered it to old Witherby, and he wouldn't
look at it!" He found that this fact, which he had doubtfully confided to
Ricker, was not offensive to some of the Events people who were there; one
of them got him aside, and darkly owned to him that Witherby was doing
everything that any one man could to kill the Events, and that in fact the
counting-room was running the paper.

All the club united in abusing the dinner, which in his rustic ignorance
Bartley had not found so infamous; but they ate it with perfect appetite
and with mounting good spirits. The president brewed punch in a great bowl
before him, and, rising with a glass of it in his hand, opened a free
parliament of speaking, story-telling, and singing. Whoever recollected a
song or a story that he liked, called upon the owner of it to sing it or
tell it; and it appeared not to matter how old the fun or the music was:
the company was resolved to be happy; it roared and clapped till the
glasses rang. "You will like this song," Bartley's neighbors to right and
left of him prophesied; or, "Just listen to this story of Mason's,--it's
capital,"--as one or another rose in response to a general clamor. When
they went back to the reception-room they carried the punch-bowl with them,
and there, amid a thick cloud of smoke, two clever amateurs took their
places at the piano, and sang and played to their heart's content, while
the rest, glass in hand, talked and laughed, or listened as they chose.
Bartley had not been called upon, but he was burning to try that song in
which he had failed so dismally in the logging-camp. When the pianist rose
at last, he slipped down into the chair, and, striking the chords of the
accompaniment, he gave his piece with brilliant audacity. The room silenced
itself and then burst into a roar of applause, and cries of "Encore!" There
could be no doubt of the success. "Look here, Ricker," said a leading
man at the end of the repetition, "your friend must be one of us!"--and,
rapping on the table, he proposed Bartley's name. In that simple time the
club voted _viva voce_ on proposed members, and Bartley found himself
elected by acclamation, and in the act of paying over his initiation fee to
the treasurer, before he had well realized the honor done him. Everybody
near him shook his hand, and offered to be of service to him. Much of this
cordiality was merely collective good feeling; something of it might be
justly attributed to the punch; but the greater part was honest. In this
civilization of ours, grotesque and unequal and imperfect as it is in many
things, we are bound together in a brotherly sympathy unknown to any other.
We new men have all had our hard rubs, but we do not so much remember them
in soreness or resentment as in the wish to help forward any other who is
presently feeling them. If he will but help himself too, a hundred hands
are stretched out to him.

Bartley had kept his head clear of the punch, but he left the club drunk
with joy and pride, and so impatient to be with Marcia and tell her of his
triumphs that he could hardly wait to read the proof of his boarding-house
article which Ricker had put in hand at once for the Sunday edition. He
found Marcia sitting up for him, and she listened with a shining face while
he hastily ran over the most flattering facts of the evening. She was not
so much surprised at the honors done him as he had expected but she was
happier, and she made him repeat it all and give her the last details. He
was afraid she would ask him what his initiation had cost; but she seemed
to have no idea that it had cost anything, and though it had swept away a
third of the money he had received for his sketch, he still resolved that
she should have that supper at Parker's.

"I consider my future made," he said aloud, at the end of his swift
cogitation on this point.

"Oh, yes!" she responded rapturously. "We needn't have a moment's anxiety.
But we must be very saving still till you get a place."

"Oh, certainly," said Bartley.



XVII.


During several months that followed, Bartley's work consisted of
interviewing, of special reporting in all its branches, of correspondence
by mail and telegraph from points to which he was sent; his leisure
he spent in studying subjects which could be treated like that of
the boarding-houses. Marcia entered into his affairs with the keen
half-intelligence which characterizes a woman's participation in business;
whatever could be divined, she was quickly mistress of; she vividly
sympathized with his difficulties and his triumphs; she failed to follow
him in matters of political detail, or of general effect; she could not be
dispassionate or impartial; his relation to any enterprise was always more
important than anything else about it. On some of his missions he took her
with him, and then they made it a pleasure excursion; and if they came home
late with the material still unwritten, she helped him with his notes,
wrote from his dictation, and enabled him to give a fuller report than
his rivals. She caught up with amusing aptness the technical terms of the
profession, and was voluble about getting in ahead of the Events and the
other papers; and she was indignant if any part of his report was cut out
or garbled, or any feature was spoiled.

He made a "card" of grouping and treating with picturesque freshness the
spring openings of the milliners and dry-goods people; and when he brought
his article to Ricker, the editor ran it over, and said, "Guess you took
your wife with you, Hubbard."

"Yes, I did," Bartley owned. He was always proud of her looks, and it
flattered him that Ricker should see the evidences of her feminine taste
and knowledge in his account of the bonnets and dress goods. "You don't
suppose I could get at all these things by inspiration, do you?"

Marcia was already known to some of his friends whom he had introduced to
her in casual encounters. They were mostly unmarried, or if married they
lived at a distance, and they did not visit the Hubbards at their lodgings.
Marcia was a little shy, and did not quite know whether they ought to call
without being asked, or whether she ought to ask them; besides, Mrs. Nash's
reception-room was not always at her disposal, and she would not have liked
to take them all the way up to her own room. Her social life was therefore
confined to the public places where she met these friends of her husband's.
They sometimes happened together at a restaurant, or saw one another
between the acts at the theatre, or on coming out of a concert. Marcia was
not so much admired for her conversation by her acquaintance, as for her
beauty and her style; a rustic reluctance still lingered in her; she was
thin and dry in her talk with any one but Bartley, and she could not help
letting even men perceive that she was uneasy when they interested him in
matters foreign to her.

Bartley did not see why they could not have some of these fellows up
in their room for tea; but Marcia told him it was impossible. In fact,
although she willingly lived this irregular life with him, she was at heart
not at all a Bohemian. She did not like being in lodgings or dining at
restaurants; on their horse-car excursions into the suburbs, when the
spring opened, she was always choosing this or that little house as the
place where she would like to live, and wondering if it were within their
means. She said she would gladly do all the work herself; she hated to be
idle so much as she now must. The city's novelty wore off for her sooner
than for him: the concerts, the lectures, the theatres, had already lost
their zest for her, and she went because he wished her to go, or in order
to be able to help him with what he was always writing about such things.

As the spring advanced, Bartley conceived the plan of a local study,
something in the manner of the boarding-house article, but on a much vaster
scale: he proposed to Ricker a timely series on the easily accessible
hot-weather resorts, to be called "Boston's Breathing-Places," and to
relate mainly to the seaside hotels and their surroundings. His idea was
encouraged, and he took Marcia with him on most of his expeditions for its
realization. These were largely made before the regular season had well
begun; but the boats were already running, and the hotels were open, and
they were treated with the hospitality which a knowledge of Bartley's
mission must invoke. As he said, it was a matter of business, give and
take on both sides, and the landlords took more than they gave in any such
trade.

On her part Marcia regarded dead-heading as a just and legitimate privilege
of the press, if not one of its chief attributes; and these passes on boats
and trains, this system of paying hotel-bills by the presentation of a
card, constituted distinguished and honorable recognition from the public.
To her simple experience, when Bartley told how magnificently the reporters
had been accommodated, at some civic or commercial or professional banquet,
with a table of their own, where they were served with all the wines and
courses, he seemed to have been one of the principal guests, and her fear
was that his head should be turned by his honors. But at the bottom of her
heart, though she enjoyed the brilliancy of Bartley's present life, she did
not think his occupation comparable to the law in dignity. Bartley called
himself a journalist now, but his newspaper connection still identified him
in her mind with those country editors of whom she had always heard her
father speak with such contempt: men dedicated to poverty and the despite
of all the local notables who used them. She could not shake off the
old feeling of degradation, even when she heard Bartley and some of his
fellow-journalists talking in their boastfulest vein of the sovereign
character of journalism; and she secretly resolved never to relinquish her
purpose of having him a lawyer. Till he was fairly this, in regular and
prosperous practice, she knew that she should not have shown her father
that she was right in marrying Bartley.

In the mean time their life went ignorantly on in the obscure channels
where their isolation from society kept it longer than was natural. Three
or four months after they came to Boston, they were still country people,
with scarcely any knowledge of the distinctions and differences so
important to the various worlds of any city. So far from knowing that they
must not walk in the Common, they used to sit down on a bench there, in the
pleasant weather, and watch the opening of the spring, among the lovers
whose passion had a publicity that neither surprised nor shocked them.
After they were a little more enlightened, they resorted to the Public
Garden, where they admired the bridge, and the rock-work, and the statues.
Bartley, who was already beginning to get up a taste for art, boldly
stopped and praised the Venus, in the presence of the gardeners planting
tulip-bulbs.

They went sometimes to the Museum of Fine Arts, where they found a pleasure
in the worst things which the best never afterwards gave them; and where
she became as hungry and tired as if it were the Vatican. They had a pride
in taking books out of the Public Library, where they walked about on
tiptoe with bated breath; and they thought it a divine treat to hear the
Great Organ play at noon. As they sat there in the Music Hall, and let the
mighty instrument bellow over their strong young nerves, Bartley whispered
Marcia the jokes he had heard about the organ; and then, upon the wave of
aristocratic sensation from this experience, they went out and dined at
Copeland's, or Weber's, or Fera's, or even at Parker's: they had long since
forsaken the humble restaurant with its doilies and its ponderous crockery,
and they had so mastered the art of ordering that they could manage a
dinner as cheaply at these finer places as anywhere, especially if Marcia
pretended not to care much for her half of the portion, and connived at its
transfer to Bartley's plate.

In his hours of leisure, they were so perpetually together that it became a
joke with the men who knew them to say, when asked if Bartley were married,
"Very _much_ married." It was not wholly their inseparableness that gave
the impression of this extreme conjugality; as I said, Marcia's uneasiness
when others interested Bartley in things alien to her made itself felt even
by these men. She struggled against it because she did not wish to put him
to shame before them, and often with an aching sense of desolation she sent
him off with them to talk apart, or left him with them if they met on the
street, and walked home alone, rather than let any one say that she kept
her husband tied to her apron-strings. His club, after the first sense of
its splendor and usefulness wore away, was an ordeal; she had failed to
conceal that she thought the initiation and annual fees extravagant. She
knew no other bliss like having Bartley sit down in their own room with
her; it did not matter whether they talked; if he were busy, she would as
lief sit and sew, or sit and silently look at him as he wrote. In these
moments she liked to feign that she had lost him, that they had never been
married, and then come back with a rush of joy to the reality. But on his
club nights she heroically sent him off, and spent the evening with Mrs.
Nash. Sometimes she went out by day with the landlady, who had a passion
for auctions and cemeteries, and who led Marcia to an intimate acquaintance
with such pleasures. At Mount Auburn, Marcia liked the marble lambs, and
the emblematic hands pointing upward with the dexter finger, and the
infants carved in stone, and the angels with folded wings and lifted eyes,
better than the casts which Bartley said were from the antique, in the
Museum; on this side her mind was as wholly dormant as that of Mrs. Nash
herself. She always came home feeling as if she had not seen Bartley for a
year, and fearful that something had happened to him.

The hardest thing about their irregular life was that he must sometimes be
gone two or three days at a time, when he could not take her with him. Then
it seemed to her that she could not draw a full breath in his absence; and
once he found her almost wild on his return: she had begun to fancy that
he was never coming back again. He laughed at her when she betrayed her
secret, but she was not ashamed; and when he asked her, "Well, what if I
hadn't come back?" she answered passionately, "It wouldn't have made much
difference to me: I should not have lived."

The uncertainty of his income was another cause of anguish to her. At times
he earned forty or fifty dollars a week; oftener he earned ten; there was
now and then a week when everything that he put his hand to failed, and he
earned nothing at all. Then Marcia despaired; her frugality became a
mania, and they had quarrels about what she called his extravagance. She
embittered his daily bread by blaming him for what he spent on it; she wore
her oldest dresses, and would have had him go shabby in token of their
adversity. Her economies were frantic child's play,--methodless,
inexperienced, fitful; and they were apt to be followed by remorse in which
she abetted him in some wanton excess.

The future of any heroic action is difficult to manage; and the sublime
sacrifice of her pride and all the conventional proprieties which Marcia
had made in giving herself to Bartley was inevitably tried by the same
sordid tests that every married life is put to.

That salaried place which he was always seeking on the staff of some
newspaper, proved not so easy to get as he had imagined in the flush of
his first successes. Ricker willingly included him among the
Chronicle-Abstract's own correspondents and special reporters; and he held
the same off-and-on relation to several other papers; but he remained
without a more definite position. He earned perhaps more money than a
salary would have given him, and in their way of living he and Marcia laid
up something out of what he earned. But it did not seem to her that he
exerted himself to get a salaried place; she was sure that, if so many
others who could not write half so well had places, he might get one if he
only kept trying. Bartley laughed at these business-turns of Marcia's as
he called them; but sometimes they enraged him, and he had days of sullen
resentment when he resisted all her advances towards reconciliation. But he
kept hard at work, and he always owned at last how disinterested her most
ridiculous alarm had been.

Once, when they had been talking as usual about that permanent place on
some newspaper, she said, "But I should only want that to be temporary,
if you got it. I want you should go on with the law, Bartley. I've been
thinking about that. I don't want you should always be a journalist."

Bartley smiled. "What could I do for a living, I should like to know, while
I was studying law?"

"You could do some newspaper work,--enough to support us,--while you were
studying. You said when we first came to Boston that you should settle down
to the law."

"I hadn't got my eyes open, then. I've got a good deal longer row to hoe
than I supposed, before I can settle down to the law."

"Father said you didn't need to study but a little more."

"Not if I were going into the practice at Equity. But it's a very different
thing, I can tell you, in Boston: I should have to go in for a course in
the Harvard Law School, just for a little start-off."

Marcia was silenced, but she asked, after a moment, "Then you're going to
give up the law, altogether?"

"I don't know what I'm going to do; I'm going to do the best I can for the
present, and trust to luck. I don't like special reporting, for a finality;
but I shouldn't like shystering, either."

"What's shystering?" asked Marcia.

"It's pettifogging in the city courts. Wait till I can get my basis,--till
I have a fixed amount of money for a fixed amount of work,--and then I'll
talk to you about taking up the law again. I'm willing to do it whenever
it seems the right thing. I guess I should like it, though I don't see
why it's any better than journalism, and I don't believe it has any more
prizes."

"But you've been a long time trying to get your basis on a newspaper," she
reasoned. "Why don't you try to get it in some other way? Why don't you try
to get a clerk's place with some lawyer?"

"Well, suppose I was willing to starve along in that way, how should I go
about to get such a place?" demanded Bartley, with impatience.

"Why don't you go to that Mr. Halleck you visited here? You used to tell me
he was going to be a lawyer."

"Well, if you remember so distinctly what I said about going into the law
when I first came to Boston," said her husband angrily, "perhaps you'll
remember that I said I shouldn't go to Halleck until I didn't need his
help. I shall not go to him _for_ his help."

Marcia gave way to spiteful tears. "It seems as if you were ashamed to
let them know that you were in town. Are you afraid I shall want to get
acquainted with them? Do you suppose I shall want to go to their parties,
and disgrace you?"

Bartley took his cigar out of his mouth, and looked blackly at her. "So,
that's what you've been thinking, is it?"

She threw herself upon his neck. "No! no, it isn't!" she cried,
hysterically. "You know that I never thought it till this instant; you know
I didn't think it at all; I just _said_ it. My nerves are all gone; I don't
know _what_ I'm saying half the time, and you're as strict with me as if
I were as well as ever! I may as well take off my things,--I'm not well
enough to go with you, to-day, Bartley."

She had been dressing while they talked for an entertainment which Bartley
was going to report for the Chronicle-Abstract; and now she made a feint of
wishing to remove her hat. He would not let her. He said that if she did
not go, he should not; he reproached her with not wishing to go with him
any more; he coaxed her laughingly and fondly.

"It's only because I'm not so strong, now," she said in a whisper that
ended in a kiss on his cheek. "You must walk very slowly, and not hurry
me."

The entertainment was to be given in aid of the Indigent Children's
Surf-Bathing Society, and it was at the end of June, rather late in the
season. But the society itself was an afterthought, not conceived till a
great many people had left town on whose assistance such a charity
must largely depend. Strenuous appeals had been made, however: it was
represented that ten thousand poor children could be transported to
Nantasket Beach, and there, as one of the ladies on the committee said,
bathed, clam-baked, and lemonaded three times during the summer at a cost
so small that it was a saving to spend the money. Class Day falling about
the same time, many exiles at Newport and on the North Shore came up and
down; and the affair promised to be one of social distinction, if not
pecuniary success. The entertainment was to be varied: a distinguished poet
was to read an old poem of his, and a distinguished poetess was to read
a new poem of hers; some professional people were to follow with comic
singing; an elocutionist was to give impressions of noted public speakers;
and a number of vocal and instrumental amateurs were to contribute their
talent.

Bartley had instructions from Ricker to see that his report was very
full socially. "We want something lively, and at the same time nice and
tasteful, about the whole thing, and I guess you're the man to do it. Get
Mrs. Hubbard to go with you, and keep you from making a fool of yourself
about the costumes." He gave Bartley two tickets. "Mighty hard to get, I
can tell you, for _love_ or money,--especially love," he said; and Bartley
made much of this difficulty in impressing Marcia's imagination with the
uncommon character of the occasion. She had put on a new dress which
she had just finished for herself, and which was a marvel not only of
cheapness, but of elegance; she had plagiarized the idea from the costume
of a lady with whom she stopped to look in at a milliner's window where she
formed the notion of her bonnet. But Marcia had imagined the things anew in
relation to herself, and made them her own; when Bartley first saw her in
them, though he had witnessed their growth from the germ, he said that he
was afraid of her, she was so splendid, and he did not quite know whether
he felt acquainted. When they were seated at the concert, and had time to
look about them, he whispered, "Well, Marsh, I don't see anything here that
comes near you in style," and she flung a little corner of her drapery out
over his hand so that she could squeeze it: she was quite happy again.

After the concert, Bartley left her for a moment, and went up to a group
of the committee near the platform, to get some points for his report.
He spoke to one of the gentlemen, note-book and pencil in hand, and the
gentleman referred him to one of the ladies of the committee, who, after a
moment of hesitation, demanded in a rich tone of injury and surprise, "Why!
Isn't this Mr. Hubbard?" and, indignantly answering herself, "Of _course_
it is!" gave her hand with a sort of dramatic cordiality, and flooded him
with questions: "When did you come to Boston? Are you at the Hallecks'? Did
you come--Or no, you're _not_ Harvard. You're not _living_ in Boston? And
what in the world are _you_ getting items for? Mr. Hubbard, Mr. Atherton."

She introduced him in a breathless climax to the gentleman to whom he had
first spoken, and who had listened to her attack on Bartley with a smile
which he was at no trouble to hide from her. "Which question are you going
to answer first, Mr. Hubbard?" he asked quietly, while his eyes searched
Bartley's for an instant with inquiry which was at once kind and keen. His
face had the distinction which comes of being clean-shaven in our bearded
times.

"Oh, the last," said Bartley. "I'm reporting the concert for the
Chronicle-Abstract, and I want to interview some one in authority about
it."

"Then interview _me_, Mr. Hubbard," cried the young lady. "_I'm_ in
authority about this affair,--it's my own invention, as the White Knight
says,--and then I'll interview you afterwards. And you've gone into
journalism, like all the Harvard men! So glad it's you, for you can be a
perfect godsend to the cause if you will. The entertainment hasn't given us
all the money we shall want, by any means, and we shall need all the help
the press can give us. Ask me any questions you please, Mr. Hubbard:
there isn't a soul here that I wouldn't sacrifice to the last personal
particular, if the press will only do its duty in return. You've no idea
how we've been working during the last fortnight since this Old Man of the
Sea-Bathing sprang upon us. I was sitting quietly at home, thinking of
anything else in the world, I can assure you, when the atrocious idea
occurred to me." She ran on to give a full sketch of the inception and
history of the scheme up to the present time. Suddenly she arrested herself
and Bartley's flying pencil: "Why, you're not putting all that nonsense
down?"

"Certainly I am," said Bartley, while Mr. Atherton, with a laugh, turned
and walked away to talk with some other ladies. "It's the very thing I
want. I shall get in ahead of all the other papers on this; they haven't
had anything like it, yet."

She looked at him for a moment in horror. Then, "Well, go on; I would do
anything for the cause!" she cried.

"Tell me who's been here, then," said Bartley.

She recoiled a little. "I don't like giving names."

"But I can't say who the people were, unless you do."

"That's true," said the young lady thoughtfully. She prided herself on her
thoughtfulness, which sometimes came before and sometimes after the fact.
"You're not obliged to say who told you?"

"Of course not."

She ran over a list of historical and distinguished names, and he slyly
asked if this and that lady were not dressed so, and so, and worked in
the costumes from her unconsciously elaborate answers; she was afterwards
astonished that he should have known what people had on. Lastly, he asked
what the committee expected to do next, and was enabled to enrich his
report with many authoritative expressions and intimations. The lady became
all zeal in these confidences to the public, at last; she told everything
she knew, and a great deal that she merely hoped.

"And now come into the committee-room and have a cup of coffee; I know you
must be faint with all this talking," she concluded. "I want to ask
you something about yourself." She was not older than Bartley, but she
addressed him with the freedom we use in encouraging younger people.

"Thank you," he said coolly; "I can't, very well. I must go back to my
wife, and hurry up this report."

"Oh! is Mrs. Hubbard here?" asked the young lady with well-controlled
surprise. "Present me to her!" she cried, with that fearlessness of social
consequences for which she was noted: she believed there were ways of
getting rid of undesirable people without treating them rudely.

The audience had got out of the hall, and Marcia stood alone near one of
the doors waiting for Bartley. He glanced proudly toward her, and said, "I
shall be very glad."

Miss Kingsbury drifted by his side across the intervening space, and was
ready to take Marcia impressively by the hand when she reached her; she had
promptly decided her to be very beautiful and elegantly simple in dress,
but she found her smaller than she had looked at a distance. Miss Kingsbury
was herself rather large,--sometimes, she thought, rather too large:
certainly too large if she had not had such perfect command of every inch
of herself. In complexion she was richly blonde, with beautiful fair hair
roughed over her forehead, as if by a breeze, and apt to escape in sunny
tendrils over the peachy tints of her temples. Her features were massive
rather than fine; and though she thoroughly admired her chin and respected
her mouth, she had doubts about her nose, which she frankly referred to
friends for solution: had it not _too_ much of a knob at the end? She
seemed to tower over Marcia as she took her hand at Bartley's introduction,
and expressed her pleasure at meeting her.

"I don't know why it need be such a surprise to find one's gentlemen
friends married, but it always is, somehow. I don't think Mr. Hubbard would
have known me if I hadn't insisted upon his recognizing me; I can't blame
him: it's three years since we met. Do you help him with his reports? I
know you do! You _must_ make him lenient to our entertainment,--the cause
is so good! How long have you been in Boston? Though I don't know why I
should ask that,--you may have always been in Boston! One used to know
everybody; but the place _is_ so large, now. I should like to come and see
you; but I'm going out of town to-morrow, for the summer. I'm not really
here, now, except _ex officio_; I ought to have been away weeks ago,
but this Indigent Surf-Bathing has kept me. You've no idea what such an
undertaking is. But you _must_ let me have your address, and as soon as I
get back to town in the fall, I shall insist upon looking you up. _Good_
by! I must run away, now, and leave you; there are a thousand things for
me to look after yet to-day." She took Marcia again by the hand, and
superadded some bows and nods and smiles of parting, after she released
her, but she did not ask her to come into the committee-room and have some
coffee; and Bartley took his wife's hand under his arm and went out of the
hall.

"Well," he said, with a man's simple pleasure in Miss Kingsbury's
friendliness to his wife, "that's the girl I used to tell you about,--the
rich one with the money in her own right, whom I met at the Hallecks'. She
seemed to think you were about the thing, Marsh! I saw her eyes open as she
came up, and I felt awfully proud of you; you never looked half so well.
But why didn't you _say_ something?"

"She didn't give me any chance," said Marcia, "and I had nothing to say,
anyway. I thought she was very disagreeable."

"Disagreeable!" repeated Bartley in amaze.

Miss Kingsbury went back to the committee-room, where one of the amateurs
had been lecturing upon her: "Clara Kingsbury can say and do, from the best
heart in the world, more offensive things in ten minutes than malice could
invent in a week. Somebody ought to go out and drag her away from that
reporter by main force. But I presume it's too late already; she's had time
to destroy us all. You'll see that there won't be a shred left of us in
_his_ paper at any rate. Really, I wonder that, in a city full of nervous
and exasperated people like Boston, Clara Kingsbury has been suffered to
live. She throws her whole soul into everything she undertakes, and she has
gone so _en masse_ into this Indigent Bathing, and splashed about in it so,
that _I_ can't understand how we got anybody to come to-day. Why, I haven't
the least doubt that she's offered that poor man a ticket to go down to
Nantasket and bathe with the other Indigents; she's treated _me_ as if I
ought to be personally surf-bathed for the last fortnight; and if there's
any chance for us left by her tactlessness, you may be sure she's gone at
it with her conscience and simply swept it off the face of the earth."



XVIII.


One hot day in August, when Bartley had been doing nothing for a week, and
Marcia was gloomily forecasting the future when they would have to begin
living upon the money they had put into the savings bank, she reverted to
the question of his taking up the law again. She was apt to recur to this
in any moment of discouragement, and she urged him now to give up his
newspaper work with that wearisome persistence with which women torment the
men they love.

"My newspaper work seems to have given me up, my dear," said Bartley. "It's
like asking a fellow not to marry a girl that won't have him." He laughed
and then whistled; and Marcia burst into fretful, futile tears, which he
did not attempt to assuage.

They had been all summer in town; the country would have been no change
to them; and they knew nothing of the seaside except the crowded, noisy,
expensive resorts near the city. Bartley wished her to go to one of these
for a week or two, at any rate, but she would not; and in fact neither of
them had the born citizen's conception of the value of a summer vacation.
But they had found their attic intolerable; and, the single gentlemen
having all given up their rooms by this time, Mrs. Nash let Marcia have one
lower down, where they sat looking out on the hot street.

"Well," cried Marcia at last, "you don't care for my feelings, or you would
take up the law again."

Her husband rose with a sigh that was half a curse, and went out. After
what she had said, he would not give her the satisfaction of knowing what
he meant to do; but he had it in his head to go to that Mr. Atherton to
whom Miss Kingsbury had introduced him, and ask his advice; he had found
out that Mr. Atherton was a lawyer, and he believed that he would tell him
what to do. He could at least give him some authoritative discouragement
which he might use in these discussions with Marcia.

Mr. Atherton had his office in the Events building, and Bartley was on his
way thither when he met Ricker.

"Seen Witherby?" asked his friend. "He was round looking for you."

"What does Witherby want with me?" asked Bartley, with a certain
resentment.

"Wants to give you the managing-editorship of the Events," said Ricker,
jocosely.

"Pshaw! Well, he knows where to find me, if he wants me very badly."

"Perhaps he doesn't," suggested Ricker. "In that case, you'd better look
him up."

"Why, you don't advise--"

"Oh, _I_ don't advise anything! But if _he_ can let bygones be bygones, I
guess _you_ can afford to! I don't know just what he wants with you, but if
he offers you anything like a basis, you'd better take it."

Bartley's basis had come to be a sort of by-word between them; Ricker
usually met him with some such demand as, "Well, what about the basis?" or,
"How's your poor basis?" Bartley's ardor for a salaried position amused
him, and he often tried to argue him out of it. "You're much better off as
a free lance. You make as much money as most of the fellows in places, and
you lead a pleasanter life. If you were on any one paper, you'd have to
be on duty about fifteen hours out of the twenty-four; you'd be out every
night till three or four o'clock; you'd have to do fires, and murders,
and all sorts of police business; and now you work mostly on fancy
jobs,--something you suggest yourself, or something you're specially asked
to do. That's a kind of a compliment, and it gives you scope."

Nevertheless, if Bartley had his heart set upon a basis, Ricker wanted him
to have it. "Of course," he said, "I was only joking about the basis. But
if Witherby should have something permanent to offer, don't quarrel with
your bread and butter, and don't hold yourself _too_ cheap. Witherby's
going to get all he can, for as little as he can, every time."

Ricker was a newspaper man in every breath. His great interest in life was
the Chronicle-Abstract, which paid him poorly and worked him hard. To
get in ahead of the other papers was the object for which he toiled with
unremitting zeal; but after that he liked to see a good fellow prosper,
and he had for Bartley that feeling of comradery which comes out among
journalists when their rivalries are off. He would hate to lose Bartley
from the Chronicle-Abstract; if Witherby meant business, Bartley and
he might be excoriating each other before a week passed in sarcastic
references to "our esteemed contemporary of the Events," and "our esteemed
contemporary of the Chronicle-Abstract"; but he heartily wished him luck,
and hoped it might be some sort of inside work.

When Ricker left him Bartley hesitated. He was half minded to go home and
wait for Witherby to look him up, as the most dignified and perhaps the
most prudent course. But he was curious and impatient, and he was afraid
of letting the chance, whatever it might be, slip through his fingers. He
suddenly resolved upon a little ruse, which would still oblige Witherby
to make the advance, and yet would risk nothing by delay. He mounted to
Witherby's room in the Events building, and pushed open the door. Then he
drew back, embarrassed, as if he had made a mistake. "Excuse me," he said,
"isn't Mr. Atherton's office on this floor?"

Witherby looked up from the papers on his desk, and cleared his throat.
When he overreached himself he was apt to hold any party to the transaction
accountable for his error. Ever since he refused Bartley's paper on the
logging-camp, he had accused him in his heart of fraud because he had sold
the rejected sketch to another paper, and anticipated Witherby's tardy
enterprise in the same direction. Each little success that Bartley made
added to Witherby's dislike; and whilst Bartley had written for all the
other papers, he had never got any work from the Events. Witherby had the
guilty sense of having hated him as he looked up, and Bartley on his part
was uneasily sensible of some mocking paragraphs of a more or less personal
cast, which he had written in the Chronicle-Abstract, about the enterprise
of the Events.

"Mr. Atherton is on the floor above," said Witherby. "But I'm very glad
you happened to look in, Mr. Hubbard. I--I was just thinking about you.
Ah--wont you take a chair?"

"Thanks," said Bartley, non-committally; but he sat down in the chair which
the other rose to offer him.

Witherby fumbled about among the things on his desk before he resumed his
own seat. "I hope you have been well since I saw you?"

"Oh, yes, I'm always well. How have you been?" Bartley wondered whither
this exchange of civilities tended; but he believed he could keep it up as
long as old Witherby could.

"Why, I have not been very well," said Witherby, getting into his chair,
and taking up a paper-weight to help him in talk. "The fact is, I find that
I have been working too hard. I have undertaken to manage the editorial
department of the Events in addition to looking after its business, and the
care has been too great. It has told upon me. I flatter myself that I have
not allowed either department to suffer--"

He referred this point so directly to him, that Bartley made a murmur of
assent, and Witherby resumed.

"But the care has told upon me. I am not so well as I could wish. I need
rest, and I need help," he added.

Bartley had by this time made up his mind that, if Witherby had anything to
say to him, he should say it unaided.

Witherby put down the paper-weight, and gave his attention for a moment to
a paper-cutter. "I don't know whether you have heard that Mr. Clayton is
going to leave us?"

"No," Bartley said, "I hadn't heard that."

"Yes, he is going to leave us. Mr. Clayton and I have not agreed upon some
points, and we have both judged it best that we should part."
Witherby paused again, and changed the positions of his inkstand and
mucilage-bottle. "Mr. Clayton has failed me, as I may say, at the
last moment, and we have been compelled to part. I found Mr.
Clayton--unpractical."

He looked again at Bartley, who said, "Yes?"

"Yes. I found Mr. Clayton so much at variance in his views with--with my
own views--that I could do nothing with him. He has used language to me
which I am sure he will regret. But that is neither here nor there; he
is going. I have had my eye on you, Mr. Hubbard, ever since you came to
Boston, and have watched your career with interest. But I thought of Mr.
Clayton, in the first instance, because he was already attached to the
Events, and I wished to promote him. Office during good behavior, and
promotion in the direct line: I'm _that_ much of a civil-service reformer,"
said Witherby.

"Certainly," said Bartley.

"But of course my idea in starting the Events was to make money."

"Of course."

"I hold that the first duty of a public journal is to make money for the
owner; all the rest follows naturally."

"You're quite right, Mr. Witherby," said Bartley. "Unless it makes money,
there can be no enterprise about it, no independence,--nothing. That was
the way I did with my little paper down in Maine. The first thing--I told
the committee when I took hold of the paper--is to keep it from losing
money; the next is to make money with it. First peaceable, then pure:
that's what I told them."

"Precisely so!" Witherby was now so much at his ease with Bartley that
he left off tormenting the things on his desk, and used his hands in
gesticulating. "Look at the churches themselves! No church can do any good
till it's on a paying basis. As long as a church is in debt, it can't
secure the best talent for the pulpit or the choir, and the members go
about feeling discouraged and out of heart. It's just so with a newspaper.
I say that a paper does no good till it pays; it has no influence, its
motives are always suspected, and you've got to make it pay by hook or by
crook, before you can hope to--to--forward any good cause by it. That's
what _I_ say. Of course," he added, in a large, smooth way, "I'm not going
to contend that a newspaper should be run _solely_ in the interest of the
counting-room. Not at all! But I do contend that, when the counting-room
protests against a certain course the editorial room is taking, it ought to
be respectfully listened to. There are always two sides to every question.
Suppose all the newspapers pitch in--as they sometimes do--and denounce a
certain public enterprise: a projected scheme of railroad legislation, or
a peculiar system of banking, or a co-operative mining interest, and the
counting-room sends up word that the company advertises heavily with us;
shall _we_ go and join indiscriminately in that hue and cry, or shall we
give our friends the benefit of the doubt?"

"Give them the benefit of the doubt," answered Bartley. "That's what I
say."

"And so would any other practical man!" said Witherby. "And that's just
where Mr. Clayton and I differed. Well, I needn't allude to him any
more," he added leniently. "What I wish to say is this, Mr. Hubbard. I am
overworked, and I feel the need of some sort of relief. I know that I have
started the Events in the right line at last,--the only line in which it
can be made a great, useful, and respectable journal, efficient in
every good cause,--and what I want now is some sort of assistant in the
management who shall be in full sympathy with my own ideas. I don't want a
mere slave,--a tool; but I do want an independent, right-minded man, who
shall be with me for the success of the paper the whole time and every
time, and shall not be continually setting up his will against mine on all
sorts of _doctrinaire_ points. That was the trouble with Mr. Clayton. I
have nothing against Mr. Clayton personally; he is an excellent young man
in very many respects; but he was all wrong about journalism, all wrong,
Mr. Hubbard. I talked with him a great deal, and tried to make him see
where his interest lay. He had been on the paper as a reporter from the
start, and I wished very much to promote him to this position; which he
could have made the best position in the country. The Events is an evening
paper; there is no night-work; and the whole thing is already thoroughly
systematized. Mr. Clayton had plenty of talent, and all he had to do was to
step in under my direction and put his hand on the helm. But, no! I should
have been glad to keep him in a subordinate capacity; but I had to let him
go. He said that he would not report the conflagration of a peanut-stand
for a paper conducted on the principles I had developed to him. Now, that
is no way to talk. It's absurd."

"Perfectly." Bartley laughed his rich, caressing laugh, in which there
was the insinuation of all worldly-wise contempt for Clayton and all
worldly-wise sympathy with Witherby. It made Witherby feel good,--better
perhaps than he had felt at any time since his talk with Clayton.

"Well, now, what do you say, Mr. Hubbard? Can't we make some arrangement
with you?" he asked, with a burst of frankness.

"I guess you can," said Bartley. The fact that Witherby needed him was so
plain that he did not care to practise any finesse about the matter.

"What are your present engagements?"

"I haven't any."

"Then you can take hold at once?"

"Yes."

"That's good!" Witherby now entered at large into the nature of the
position which he offered Bartley. They talked a long time, and in becoming
better acquainted with each other's views, as they called them, they became
better friends. Bartley began to respect Witherby's business ideas, and
Witherby in recognizing all the admirable qualities of this clear-sighted
and level-headed young man began to feel that he had secretly liked him
from the first, and had only waited a suitable occasion to unmask his
affection. It was arranged that Bartley should come on as Witherby's
assistant, and should do whatever he was asked to do in the management of
the paper; he was to write on topics as they occurred to him, or as they
were suggested to him. "I don't say whether this will lead to anything
more, Mr. Hubbard, or not; but I do say that you will be in the direct line
of promotion."

"Yes, I understand that," said Bartley.

"And now as to terms," continued Witherby, a little tremulously.

"And now as to terms," repeated Bartley to himself; but he said nothing
aloud. He felt that Witherby had cut out a great deal of work for him, and
work of a kind that he could not easily find another man both willing and
able to do. He resolved that he would have all that his service was worth.

"What should you think of twenty dollars a week?" asked Witherby.

"I shouldn't think it was enough," said Bartley, amazed at his own
audacity, but enjoying it, and thinking how he had left Marcia with the
intention of offering himself to Mr. Atherton as a clerk for ten dollars a
week. "There is a great deal of labor in what you propose, and you command
my whole time. You would not like to have me do any work outside of the
Events."

"No," Witherby assented. "Would twenty-five be nearer the mark?" he
inquired soberly.

"It would be nearer, certainly," said Bartley. "But I guess you had better
make it thirty." He kept a quiet face, but his heart throbbed.

"Well, say thirty, then," replied Witherby so promptly that Bartley
perceived with a pang that he might as easily have got forty from him. But
it was now too late, and a salary of fifteen hundred a year passed the
wildest hopes he had cherished half an hour before.

"All right," he said quietly. "I suppose you want me to take hold at once?"

"Yes, on Monday. Oh, by the way," said Witherby, "there is one little piece
of outside work which I should like you to finish up for us; and we'll
agree upon something extra for it, if you wish. I mean our Solid Men
series. I don't know whether you've noticed the series in the Events?"

"Yes," said Bartley, "I have."

"Well, then, you know what they are. They consist of interviews--guarded
and inoffensive as respects the sanctity of private life--with our leading
manufacturers and merchant princes at their places of business and their
residences, and include a description of these, and some account of the
lives of the different subjects."

"Yes, I have seen them," said Bartley. "I've noticed the general plan."

"You know that Mr. Clayton has been doing them. He made them a popular
feature. The parties themselves were very much pleased with them."

"Oh, people are always tickled to be interviewed," said Bartley. "I know
they put on airs about it, and go round complaining to each other about
the violation of confidence, and so on; but they all like it. You know
I reported that Indigent Surf-Bathing entertainment in June for the
Chronicle-Abstract. I knew the lady who got it up, and I interviewed her
after the entertainment."

"Miss Kingsbury?"

"Yes." Witherby made an inarticulate murmur of respect for Bartley in
his throat, and involuntarily changed toward him, but not so subtly that
Bartley's finer instinct did not take note of the change. "She was a fresh
subject, and she told me everything. Of course I printed it all. She
was awfully shocked,--or pretended to be,--and wrote me a very
O-dear-how-could-you note about it. But I went round to the office the next
day, and I found that nearly every lady mentioned in the interview had
ordered half a dozen copies of that issue sent to her seaside address, and
the office had been full of Beacon Street swells all the morning buying
Chronicle-Abstracts,--'the one with the report of the Concert in it.'"
These low views of high society, coupled with an apparent familiarity with
it, modified Witherby more and more. He began to see that he had got a
prize. "The way to do with such fellows as your Solid Men," continued
Bartley, "is to submit a proof to 'em. They never know exactly what to do
about it, and so you print the interview with their approval, and make 'em
_particeps criminis_. I'll finish up the series for you, and I won't make
any very heavy extra charge."

"I should wish to pay you whatever the work was worth," said Witherby, not
to be outdone in nobleness.

"All right; we sha'n't quarrel about that, at any rate."

Bartley was getting toward the door, for he was eager to be gone now to
Marcia, but Witherby followed him up as if willing to detain him. "My
wife," he said, "knows Miss Kingsbury. They have been on the same charities
together."

"I met her a good while ago, when I was visiting a chum of mine at his
father's house here. I didn't suppose she'd know me; but she did at once,
and began to ask me if I was at the Hallecks'--as if I had never gone
away."

"Mr. Ezra B. Halleck?" inquired Witherby reverently. "Leather trade?"

"Yes," said Bartley. "I believe his first name was Ezra. Ben Halleck was my
friend. Do you know the family?" asked Bartley.

"Yes, we have met them--in society. I hope you're pleasantly situated where
you are, Mr. Hubbard? Should be glad to have you call at the house."

"Thank you," said Bartley, "my wife will be glad to have Mrs. Witherby
call."

"Oh!" cried Witherby. "I didn't know you were married! That's good! There's
nothing like marriage, Mr. Hubbard, to keep a man going in the right
direction. But you've begun pretty young."

"Nothing like taking a thing in time," answered Bartley. "But I haven't
been married a great while; and I'm not so young as I look. Well, good
afternoon, Mr. Witherby."

"_What_ did you say was your address?" asked Witherby, taking out his
note-book. "My wife will certainly call. She's down at Nantasket now, but
she'll be up the first part of September, and then she'll call. _Good_
afternoon."

They shook hands at last, and Bartley ran home to Marcia. He burst into the
room with a glowing face. "Well, Marcia," he shouted, "I've got my basis!"

"Hush! No! Don't be so loud! You haven't!" she answered, springing to her
feet. "I don't believe it! How hot you are!"

"I've been running--almost all the way from the Events office. I've got a
place on the Events,--assistant managing-editor,--thirty dollars a week,"
he panted.

"I knew you would succeed yet,--I knew you would, if I could only have a
little patience. I've been scolding myself ever since you went. I thought
you were going to do something desperate, and I had driven you to it. But
Bartley, Bartley! It can't be true, is it? Here, here! Do take this fan. Or
no, I'll fan you, if you'll let me sit on your knee! O poor thing, how hot
you are! But I thought you wouldn't white for the Events; I thought you
hated that old Witherby, who acted so ugly to you when you first came."

"Oh, Witherby is a pretty good old fellow," said Bartley, who had begun to
get his breath again. He gave her a full history of the affair, and they
rejoiced together over it, and were as happy as if Bartley had been
celebrating a high and honorable good fortune. She was too ignorant to feel
the disgrace, if there were any, in the compact which Bartley had closed,
and he had no principles, no traditions, by which to perceive it. To them
it meant unlimited prosperity; it meant provision for the future, which was
to bring a new responsibility and a new care.

"We will take the parlor with the alcove, now," said Bartley. "Don't excite
yourself," he added, with tender warning.

"No, no," she said, pillowing her head on his shoulder, and shedding
peaceful tears.

"It doesn't seem as if we should ever quarrel again, does it?"

"No, no! We never shall," she murmured. "It has always come from my
worrying you about the law, and I shall never do that any more. If you like
journalism better, I shall not urge you any more to leave it, now you've
got your basis."

"But I'm going on with the law, now, for that very reason. I shall read law
all my leisure time. I feel independent, and I shall not be anxious about
the time I give, because I shall know that I can afford it."

"Well, only you mustn't overdo." She put her lips against his cheek.
"You're more to me than anything you can do for me."

"Oh, Marcia!"



XIX.


Now that Bartley had got his basis and had no favors to ask of any one, he
was curious to see his friend Halleck again; but when, in the course of the
Solid Men Series, he went to interview A Nestor of the Leather Interest,
as he meant to call the elder Halleck, he resolved to let him make all
the advances. On a legitimate business errand it should not matter to him
whether Mr. Halleck welcomed him or not. The old man did not wait for
Bartley to explain why he came; he was so simply glad to see him that
Bartley felt a little ashamed to confess that he had been eight months in
Boston without making himself known. He answered all the personal questions
with which Mr. Halleck plied him; and in his turn he inquired after his
college friend.

"Ben is in Europe," said his father. "He has been there all summer; but
we expect him home about the middle of September. He's been a good while
settling down," continued the old man, with an unconscious sigh. "He talked
of the law at first, and then he went into business with me; but he didn't
seem to find his calling in it; and now he's taken up the law again. He's
been in the Law School at Cambridge, and he's going back there for a year
or two longer. I thought you used to talk of the law yourself when you were
with us, Mr. Hubbard."

"Yes, I did," Bartley assented. "And I haven't given up the notion yet.
I've read a good deal of law already; but when I came up to Boston, I had
to go into newspaper work till I could see my way out of the woods."

"Well," said Mr. Halleck, "that's right. And you say you like the
arrangement you've made with Mr. Witherby?"

"It's ideal--for me," answered Bartley.

"Well, that's good," said the old man. "And you've come to interview me.
Well, that's all right. I'm not much used to being in print, but I shall be
glad to tell you all I know about leather."

"You may depend upon my not saying anything that will be disagreeable
to you, Mr. Halleck," said Bartley, touched by the old man's trusting
friendliness. When his inquisition ended, he slipped his notebook back into
his pocket, and said with a smile, "We usually say something about the
victim's private residence, but I guess I'll spare you that, Mr. Halleck."

"Why, we live in the old place, and I don't suppose there is much to say.
We are plain people, and we don't like to change. When I built there thirty
years ago, Rumford Street was one of the most desirable streets in Boston.
There was no Back Bay, then, you know, and we thought we were doing
something very fashionable. But fashion has drifted away, and left us high
and dry enough on Rumford Street; though we don't mind it. We keep the old
house and the old garden pretty much as you saw them. You can say whatever
you think best. There's a good deal of talk about the intrusiveness of the
newspapers; all I know is that they've never intruded upon me. We shall not
be afraid that you will abuse our house, Mr. Hubbard, because we expect you
to come there again. When shall it be? Mrs. Halleck and I have been at home
all summer; we find it the most comfortable place; and we shall be very
glad if you'll drop in any evening and take tea with us. We keep the old
hours; we've never taken kindly to the late dinners. The girls are off at
the mountains, and you'd see nobody but Mrs. Halleck. Come this evening!"
cried the old man, with mounting cordiality.

His warmth as he put his hand on Bartley's shoulder made the young man
blush again for the reserve with which he had been treating his own
affairs. He stammered out, hoping that the other would see the relevancy of
the statement, "Why, the fact is, Mr. Halleck, I--I'm married."

"Married?" said Mr. Halleck. "Why didn't you tell me before? Of course we
want Mrs. Hubbard, too. Where are you living? We won't stand upon ceremony
among old friends. Mrs. Halleck will come with the carriage and fetch Mrs.
Hubbard, and your wife must take that for a call. Why, you don't know how
glad we shall be to have you both! I wish Ben was married. You'll come?"

"Of course we will," said Bartley. "But you mustn't let Mrs. Halleck send
for us; we can walk perfectly well."

"_You_ can walk if you want, but Mrs. Hubbard shall ride," said the old
man.

When Bartley reported this to Marcia, "Bartley!" she cried. "In her
carriage? I'm afraid!"

"Nonsense! She'll be a great deal more afraid than you are. She's the
bashfulest old lady you ever saw. All that I hope is that you won't
overpower her."

"Bartley, hush! Shall I wear my silk, or--"

"Oh, wear the silk, by all means. Crush them at a blow!"

Rumford Street is one of those old-fashioned thoroughfares at the West End
of Boston, which are now almost wholly abandoned to boarding-houses of the
poorer class. Yet they are charming streets, quiet, clean, and respectable,
and worthy still to be the homes, as they once were, of solid citizens. The
red brick houses, with their swell fronts, looking in perspective like a
succession of round towers, are reached by broad granite steps, and their
doors are deeply sunken within the wagon-roofs of white-painted Roman
arches. Over the door there is sometimes the bow of a fine transom, and the
parlor windows on the first floor of the swell front have the same azure
gleam as those of the beautiful old houses which front the Common on Beacon
Street.

When her husband bought his lot there, Mrs. Halleck could hardly believe
that a house on Rumford Street was not too fine for her. They had come to
the city simple and good young village people, and simple and good they
had remained, through the advancing years which had so wonderfully--Mrs.
Halleck hoped, with a trembling heart, not wickedly--prospered them. They
were of faithful stock, and they had been true to their traditions in every
way. One of these was constancy to the orthodox religious belief in which
their young hearts had united, and which had blessed all their life; though
their charity now abounded perhaps more than their faith. They still
believed that for themselves there was no spiritual safety except in their
church; but since their younger children had left it they were forced
tacitly to own that this might not be so in all cases. Their last endeavor
for the church in Ben's case was to send him to the college where he and
Bartley met; and this was such a failure on the main point, that it left
them remorsefully indulgent. He had submitted, and had foregone his boyish
dreams of Harvard, where all his mates were going; but the sacrifice seemed
to have put him at odds with life. The years which had proved the old
people mistaken would not come back upon their recognition of their error.
He returned to the associations from which they had exiled him too much
estranged to resume them, and they saw, with the unavailing regrets which
visit fathers and mothers in such cases, that the young know their own
world better than their elders can know it, and have a right to be in it
and of it, superior to any theory of their advantage which their elders can
form. Ben was not the fellow to complain; in fact, after he came home from
college, he was allowed to shape his life according to his own rather
fitful liking. His father was glad now to content him in anything he could,
it was so very little that Ben asked. If he had suffered it, perhaps his
family would have spoiled him.

The Halleck girls went early in July to the Profile House, where they had
spent their summers for many years; but the old people preferred to stay
at home, and only left their large, comfortable house for short absences.
Their ways of life had been fixed in other times, and Mrs. Halleck liked
better than mountain or sea the high-walled garden that stretched back of
their house to the next street. They had bought through to this street when
they built, but they had never sold the lot that fronted on it. They
laid it out in box-bordered beds, and there were clumps of hollyhocks,
sunflowers, lilies, and phlox, in different corners; grapes covered the
trellised walls; there were some pear-trees that bore blossoms, and
sometimes ripened their fruit beside the walk. Mrs. Halleck used to work in
the garden; her husband seldom descended into it, but he liked to sit on
the iron-railed balcony overlooking it from the back parlor.

As for the interior of the house, it had been furnished, once for all,
in the worst style of that most tasteless period of household art, which
prevailed from 1840 to 1870; and it would be impossible to say which were
most hideous, the carpets or the chandeliers, the curtains or the chairs
and sofas; crude colors, lumpish and meaningless forms, abounded in a rich
and horrible discord. The old people thought it all beautiful, and those
daughters who had come into the new house as little girls revered it; but
Ben and his youngest sister, who had been born in the house, used the right
of children of their parents' declining years to laugh at it. Yet they
laughed with a sort of filial tenderness.

"I suppose you know how frightful you have everything about you, Olive,"
said Clara Kingsbury, one day after the Eastlake movement began, as she
took a comprehensive survey of the Halleck drawing-room through her
_pince-nez_.

"Certainly," answered the youngest Miss Halleck. "It's a perfect chamber of
horrors. But I like it, because everything's so exquisitely in keeping."

"Really, I feel as if I had seen it all for the first time," said Miss
Kingsbury. "I don't believe I ever realized it before."

She and Olive Halleck were great friends, though Clara was fashionable and
Olive was not.

"It would all have been different," Ben used to say, in whimsical sarcasm
of what he had once believed, "if I had gone to Harvard. Then the fellows
in my class would have come to the house with me, and we should have got
into the right set naturally. Now, we're outside of everything, and it
makes me mad, because we've got money enough to be inside, and there's
nothing to prevent it. Of course, I'm not going to say that leather is
quite as blameless as cotton socially, but taken in the wholesale form it
isn't so very malodorous, and it's quite as good as other things that are
accepted."

"It's not the leather, Ben," answered Olive, "and it's not your not going
to Harvard altogether, though that has something to do with it. The
trouble's in me. I was at school with all those girls Clara goes with, and
I could have been in that set if I'd wanted; but I didn't really want to. I
saw, at a very tender age, that it was going to be more trouble than it was
worth, and I just quietly kept out of it. Of course, I couldn't have gone
to Papanti's without a fuss, but mother would have let me go if I had made
the fuss; and I could be hand and glove with those girls now, if I tried.
They come here whenever I ask them; and when I meet them on charities, I'm
awfully popular. No, if I'm not fashionable, it's my own fault. But what
difference does it make to you, Ben? You don't want to marry any of those
girls as long as your heart's set on that unknown charmer of yours." Ben
had once seen his charmer in the street of a little Down East town, where
he met her walking with some other boarding-school girls; in a freak with
his fellow-students, he had bribed the village photographer to let him have
the picture of the young lady, which he had sent home to Olive, marked, "My
Lost Love."

"No, I don't want to marry anybody," said Ben. "But I hate to live in a
town where I'm not first chop in everything."

"Pshaw!" cried his sister, "I guess it doesn't trouble you much."

"Well, I don't know that it does," he admitted.

Mrs. Halleck's black coachman drove her to Mrs. Nash's door on Canary
Place, where she alighted and rang with as great perturbation as if it had
been a palace, and these poor young people to whom she was going to be kind
were princes. It was sufficient that they were strangers; but Marcia's
anxiety, evident even to meekness like Mrs. Halleck's, restored her
somewhat to her self-possession; and the thought that Bartley, in spite of
his personal splendor, was a friend of Ben's, was a help, and she got home
with her guests without any great chasms in the conversation, though she
never ceased to twist the window-tassel in her embarrassment.

Mr. Halleck came to her rescue at her own door, and let them in. He shook
hands with Bartley again, and viewed Marcia with a fatherly friendliness
that took away half her awe of the ugly magnificence of the interior. But
still she admired that Bartley could be so much at his ease. He pointed to
a stick at the foot of the hat-rack, and said, "How much that looks like
Halleck!" which made the old man laugh, and clap him on the shoulder, and
cry: "So it does! so it does! Recognized it, did you? Well, we shall soon
have him with us again, now. Seems a long time to us since he went."

"Still limps a little?" asked Bartley.

"Yes, I guess he'll never quite get over that."

"I don't believe I should like him to," said Bartley. "He wouldn't seem
natural without a cane in his hand, or hanging by the crook over his left
elbow, while he stood and talked."

The old man clapped Bartley on the shoulder again, and laughed again at the
image suggested. "That's so! that's so! You're right, I _guess!"_

As soon as Marcia could lay off her things in the gorgeous chamber to
which Mrs. Halleck had shown her, they went out to tea in the dining-room
overlooking the garden.

"Seems natural, don't it?" asked the old man, as Bartley turned to one of
the windows.

"Not changed a bit, except that I was here in winter, and I hadn't a chance
to see how pretty your garden was."

"It is pretty, isn't it?" said the old man. "Mother--Mrs. Halleck, I
mean--looks after it. She keeps it about right. Here's Cyrus!" he said, as
the serving-man came into the room with something from the kitchen in his
hands. "You remember Cyrus, I guess, Mr. Hubbard?"

"Oh, yes!" said Bartley, and when Cyrus had set down his dish, Bartley
shook hands with the New Hampshire exemplar of freedom and equality; he was
no longer so young as to wish to mark a social difference between himself
and the inside-man who had served Mr. Halleck with unimpaired self-respect
for twenty-five years.

There was a vacant place at table, and Mr. Halleck said he hoped it would
be taken by a friend of theirs. He explained that the possible guest was
his lawyer, whose office Ben was going into after he left the Law School;
and presently Mr. Atherton came. Bartley was prepared to be introduced
anew, but he was flattered and the Hallecks were pleased to find that he
and Mr. Atherton were already acquainted; the latter was so friendly, that
Bartley was confirmed in his belief that you could not make an interview
too strong, for he had celebrated Mr. Atherton among the other people
present at the Indigent Surf-Bathing entertainment.

He was put next to Marcia, and after a while he began to talk with her,
feeling with a tacit skill for her highest note, and striking that with
kindly perseverance. It was not a very high note, and it was not always a
certain sound. She could not be sure that he was really interested in the
simple matters he had set her to talking about, and from time to time she
was afraid that Bartley did not like it: she would not have liked him to
talk so long or so freely with a lady. But she found herself talking on,
about boarding, and her own preference for keeping house; about Equity, and
what sort of place it was, and how far from Crawford's; about Boston, and
what she had seen and done there since she had come in the winter. Most
of her remarks began or ended with Mr. Hubbard; many of her opinions,
especially in matters of taste, were frank repetitions of what Mr. Hubbard
thought; her conversation had the charm and pathos of that of the young
wife who devotedly loves her husband, who lives in and for him, tests
everything by him, refers everything to him. She had a good mind, though it
was as bare as it could well be of most of the things that the ladies of
Mr. Atherton's world put into their minds.

Mrs. Halleck made from time to time a little murmur of satisfaction in
Marcia's loyalty, and then sank back into the meek silence that she only
emerged from to propose more tea to some one, or to direct Cyrus about
offering this dish or that.

After they rose she took Marcia about, to show her the house, ending with
the room which Bartley had when he visited there. They sat down in this
room and had a long chat, and when they came back to the parlor they
found Mr. Atherton already gone. Marcia inferred the early habits of the
household from the departure of this older friend, but Bartley was in no
hurry; he was enjoying himself, and he could not see that Mr. Halleck
seemed at all sleepy.

Mrs. Halleck wished to send them home in her carriage, but they would not
hear of this; they would far rather walk, and when they had been followed
to the door, and bidden mind the steps as they went down, the wide open
night did not seem too large for their content in themselves and each
other.

"Did you have a nice time?" asked Bartley, though he knew he need not.

"The best time I ever had in the world!" cried Marcia.

They discussed the whole affair; the two old people; Mr. Atherton, and how
pleasant he was; the house and its splendors, which they did not know were
hideous. "Bartley," said Marcia at last, "I _told_ Mrs. Halleck."

"Did you?" he returned, in trepidation; but after a while he laughed.
"Well, all right, if you wanted to."

"Yes, I did; and you can't think how kind she was. She says we must have a
house of our own somewhere, and she's going round with me in her carriage
to help me to find one."

"Well," said Bartley, and he fetched a sigh, half of pride, half of dismay.

"Yes, I long to go to housekeeping. We can afford it now. She says we can
get a cheap little house, or half a house, up at the South End, and it
won't cost us any more than to board, hardly; and that's what I think,
too."

"Go ahead, if you can find the house. I don't object to my own fireside.
And I suppose we must."

"Yes, we must. Ain't you glad of it?"

They were in the shadow of a tall house, and he dropped his face toward the
face she lifted to his, and gave her a silent kiss that made her heart leap
toward him.



XX.


With the other news that Halleck's mother gave him on his return, she told
him of the chance that had brought his old college comrade to them again,
and of how Bartley was now married, and was just settled in the little
house she had helped his wife to find. "He has married a very pretty girl,"
she said.

"Oh, I dare say!" answered her son. "He isn't the fellow to have married a
plain girl."

"Your father and I have been to call upon them in their new house, and they
seem very happy together. Mr. Hubbard wants you should come to see them. He
talks a great deal about you."

"I'll look them up in good time," said the young man. "Hubbard's ardor to
see me will keep."

That evening Mr. Atherton came to tea, and Halleck walked home with him to
his lodgings, which were over the hill, and beyond the Public Garden. "Yes,
it's very pleasant, getting back," he said, as they sauntered down the
Common side of Beacon Street, "and the old town is picturesque after the
best they can do across the water." He halted his friend, and brought
himself to a rest on his cane, for a look over the hollow of the Common and
the level of the Garden where the late September dark was keenly spangled
with lamps. "'My heart leaps up,' and so forth, when I see that. Now that
Athens and Florence and Edinburgh are past, I don't think there is any
place quite so well worth being born in as Boston." He moved forward again,
gently surging with his limp, in a way that had its charm for those that
loved him. "It's more authentic and individual, more municipal, after
the old pattern, than any other modern city. It gives its stamp, it
characterizes. The Boston Irishman, the Boston Jew, is a quite different
Irishman or Jew from those of other places. Even Boston provinciality is
a precious testimony to the authoritative personality of the city.
Cosmopolitanism is a modern vice, and we're antique, we're classic, in the
other thing. Yes, I'd rather be a Bostonian, at odds with Boston, than one
of the curled darlings of any other community."

A friend knows how to allow for mere quantity in your talk, and only
replies to the quality, separates your earnest from your whimsicality, and
accounts for some whimsicality in your earnest. "I didn't know but you
might have got that bee out of your bonnet, on the other side," said
Atherton.

"No, sir; we change our skies, but not our bees. What should I amount to
without my grievance? You wouldn't have known me. This talk to-night about
Hubbard has set my bee to buzzing with uncommon liveliness; and the thought
of the Law School next week does nothing to allay him. The Law School isn't
Harvard; I realize that more and more, though I have tried to fancy that it
was. No, sir, my wrongs are irreparable. I had the making of a real Harvard
man in me, and of a Unitarian, nicely balanced between radicalism and
amateur episcopacy. Now, I am an orthodox ruin, and the undutiful stepson
of a Down East _alma mater_. I belong nowhere; I'm at odds.--Is Hubbard's
wife really handsome, or is she only country-pretty?"

"She's beautiful,--I assure you she's beautiful," said Atherton with such
earnestness that Halleck laughed.

"Well, that's right! as my father says. How's she beautiful?"

"That's difficult to tell. It's rather a superb sort of style; and--What
did you really use to think of your friend?" Atherton broke off to ask.

"Who? Hubbard?"

"Yes."

"He was a poor, cheap sort of a creature. Deplorably smart, and regrettably
handsome. A fellow that assimilated everything to a certain extent, and
nothing thoroughly. A fellow with no more moral nature than a base-ball The
sort of chap you'd expect to find, the next time you met him, in Congress
or the house of correction."

"Yes, that accounts for it," said Atherton, thoughtfully.

"Accounts for what?"

"The sort of look she had. A look as if she were naturally above him, and
had somehow fascinated herself with him, and were worshipping him in some
sort of illusion."

"Doesn't that sound a little like refining upon the facts? Recollect: I've
never seen her, and I don't say you're wrong."

"I'm not sure I'm not, though. I talked with her, and found her nothing
more than honest and sensible and good; simple in her traditions, of
course, and countrified yet, in her ideas, with a tendency to the intensely
practical. I don't see why she mightn't very well be his wife. I suppose
every woman hoodwinks herself about her husband in some degree."

"Yes; and we always like to fancy something pathetic in the fate of pretty
girls that other fellows marry. I notice that we don't sorrow much over the
plain ones. How's the divine Clara?"

"I believe she's well," said Atherton. "I haven't seen her, all summer.
She's been at Beverley."

"Why, I should have supposed she would have come up and surf-bathed those
indigent children with her own hand. She's equal to it. What made her
falter in well-doing?"

"I don't know that we can properly call it faltering. There was a deficit
in the appropriation necessary, and she made it up herself. After that,
she consulted me seriously as to whether she ought not to stay in town
and superintend the execution of the plan. But I told her she might fitly
delegate that. She was all the more anxious to perform her whole duty,
because she confessed that indigent children were personally unpleasant to
her."

Halleck burst out laughing. "That's like Clara! How charming women are!
They're charming even in their goodness! I wonder the novelists don't take
a hint from that fact, and stop giving us those scaly heroines they've been
running lately. Why, a real woman can make righteousness delicious and
virtue piquant. I like them for that!"

"Do you?" asked Atherton, laughing in his turn at the single-minded
confession. He was some years older than his friend.

They had got down to Charles Street, and Halleck took out his watch at the
corner lamp. "It isn't at all late yet,--only half-past eight. The days are
getting shorter."

"Well?"

"Suppose we go and call on Hubbard now? He's right up here on Clover
Street!"

"I don't know," said Atherton. "It would do for you; you're an old friend.
But for me,--wouldn't it be rather unceremonious?"

"Oh, come along! They'll not be punctilious. They'll like our dropping in,
and I shall have Hubbard off my conscience. I must go to see him sooner or
later, for decency's sake."

Atherton suffered himself to be led away. "I suppose you won't stay long?"

"Oh, no; I shall cut it very short," said Halleck; and they climbed
the narrow little street where Marcia had at last found a house, after
searching the South End quite to the Highlands, and ransacking Charlestown
and Carnbridgeport. These points all seemed to her terribly remote from
where Bartley must be at work during the day, and she must be alone without
the sight of him from morning till night. The accessibility of Canary
Place had spoiled her for distances; she wanted Bartley at home for their
one-o'clock dinner; she wanted to have him within easy call at all times;
and she was glad when none of those far-off places yielded quite what they
desired in a house. They took the house on Clover Street, though it was a
little dearer than they expected, for two years, and they furnished it, as
far as they could, out of the three or four hundred dollars they had saved,
including the remaining hundred from the colt and cutter, kept sacredly
intact by Marcia. When you entered, the narrow staircase cramped you into
the little parlor opening out of the hall; and back of the parlor was
the dining-room. Overhead were two chambers, and overhead again were two
chambers more; in the basement was the kitchen. The house seemed absurdly
large to people who had been living for the last seven months in one room,
and the view of the Back Bay from the little bow-window of the front
chamber added all outdoors to their superfluous space.

Bartley came himself to answer Halleck's ring, and they met at once with
such a "Why, Halleck!" and "How do you do, Hubbard?" as restored something
of their old college comradery. Bartley welcomed Mr. Atherton under the
gas-light he had turned up, and then they huddled into the little parlor,
where Bartley introduced his old friend to his wife. Marcia wore a sort of
dark robe, trimmed with bows of crimson ribbon, which she had made
herself, and in which she looked a Roman patrician in an avatar of Boston
domesticity; and Bartley was rather proud to see his friend so visibly
dazzled by her beauty. It quite abashed Halleck, who limped helplessly
about, after his cane had been taken from him, before he sat down, while
Marcia, from the vantage of the sofa and the covert of her talk with
Atherton, was content that Halleck should be plain and awkward, with
close-cut drab hair and a dull complexion; she would not have liked even a
man who knew Bartley before she did to be very handsome.

Halleck and Bartley had some talk about college days, from which their eyes
wandered at times; and then Marcia excused herself to Atherton, and went
out, reappearing after an interval at the sliding doors, which she rolled
open between the parlor and dining-room. A table set for supper stood
behind her, and as she leaned a little forward with her hands each on
a leaf of the door, she said, with shy pride, "Bartley, I thought the
gentlemen would like to join you," and he answered, "Of course they would,"
and led the way out, refusing to hear any demur. His heart swelled with
satisfaction in Marcia; it was something like: having fellows drop in upon
you, and be asked out to supper in this easy way; it made Bartley feel
good, and he would have liked to give Marcia a hug on the spot. He could
not help pressing her foot, under the table, and exchanging a quiver of the
eyelashes with her, as he lifted the lid of the white tureen, and looked
at her across the glitter of their new crockery and cutlery. They made the
jokes of the season about the oyster being promptly on hand for the first
of the R months, and Bartley explained that he was sometimes kept at the
Events office rather late, and that then Marcia waited supper for him, and
always gave him an oyster stew, which she made herself. She could not
stop him, and the guests praised the oysters, and then they praised the
dining-room and the parlor; and when they rose from the table Bartley said,
"Now, we must show you the house," and persisted against her deprecations
in making her lead the way. She was in fact willing enough to show it; her
taste had made their money go to the utmost in furnishing it; and though
most people were then still in the period of green reps and tan terry, and
of dull black-walnut movables, she had everywhere bestowed little touches
that told. She had covered the marble parlor-mantel with cloth, and fringed
it; and she had set on it two vases in the Pompeiian colors then liked; her
carpet was of wood color and a moss pattern; she had done what could be
done with folding carpet chairs to give the little room a specious air
of luxury; the centre-table was heaped with her sewing and Bartley's
newspapers.

"We've just moved in, and we haven't furnished _all_ the rooms yet," she
said of two empty ones which Bartley perversely flung open.

"And I don't know that we shall. The house is much too big for us; but
we thought we'd better take it," he added, as if it were a castle for
vastness.

Halleck and Atherton were silent for some moments after they came away, and
then, "_I_ don't believe he whips her," suggested the latter.

"No, I guess he's fond of her," said Halleck, gravely.

"Did you see how careful he was of her, coming up and down stairs? That was
very pretty; and it was pretty to see them both so ready to show off their
young housekeeping to us."

"Yes, it improves a man to get married," said Halleck, with a long, stifled
sigh. "It's improved the most selfish hound I ever knew."



XXI.


The two elder Miss Hallecks were so much older than Olive, the youngest,
that they seemed to be of a sort of intermediary generation between her and
her parents, though Olive herself was well out of her teens, and was the
senior of her brother Ben by two or three years. The elder sisters were
always together, and they adhered in common to the religion of their father
and mother. The defection of their brother was passive, but Olive, having
conscientiously adopted an alien faith, was not a person to let others
imagine her ashamed of it, and her Unitarianism was outspoken. In her turn
she formed a kind of party with Ben inside the family, and would have led
him on in her own excesses of independence if his somewhat melancholy
indifferentism had consented. It was only in his absence that she had been
with her sisters during their summer sojourn in the White Mountains; when
they returned home, she vigorously went her way, and left them to go
theirs. She was fond of them in her defiant fashion; but in such a matter
as calling on Mrs. Hubbard she chose not to be mixed up with her family,
or in any way to countenance her family's prepossessions. Her sisters paid
their visit together, and she waited for Clara Kingsbury to come up from
the seaside. Then she went with her to call upon Marcia, sitting observant
and non-committal while Clara swooped through the little house, up stairs
and down, clamoring over its prettiness, and admiring the art with which so
few dollars could be made to go so far. "Think of finding such a bower on
Clover Street!" She made Marcia give her the cost of everything; and her
heart swelled with pride in her sex--when she heard that Marcia had put
down all the carpets herself. "I wanted to make them up," Marcia explained,
"but Mr. Hubbard wouldn't let me,--it cost so little at the store."

"Wouldn't let you!" cried Miss Kingsbury. "I should hope as much, indeed!
Why, my child, you're a Roman matron!"

She came away in agony lest Marcia might think she meant her nose. She
drove early the next morning to tell Olive Halleck that she had spent a
sleepless night from this cause, and to ask her what she _should_ do. "Do
you think she will be hurt, Olive? Tell me what led up to it. How did I
behave before that? The context is everything in such cases."

"Oh, you went about praising everything, and screaming and shouting, and
my-dearing and my-childing her, and patronizing--"

"There, there! say no more! That's sufficient! I see,--I see it all! I've
done the very most offensive thing I could, when I meant to be the most
appreciative."

"These country people don't like to be appreciated down to the quick, in
that way," said Olive. "I should think Mrs. Hubbard was rather a proud
person."

"I know! I know!" moaned Miss Kingsbury. "It was ghastly."

"_I_ don't suppose she's ashamed of her nose--"

"Olive!" cried her friend, "be still! Why, I can't _bear_ it! Why, you
wretched thing!"

"I dare say all the ladies in Equity make up their own carpets, and put
them down, and she thought you were laughing at her."

"_Will_ you be still, Olive Halleck?" Miss Kingsbury was now a large,
blonde mass of suffering, "Oh, dear, dear! What shall I do? It was
sacrilege--yes, it was nothing less than sacrilege--to go on as I did. And
I meant so well! I did so admire, and respect, and revere her!" Olive burst
out laughing. "You wicked girl!" whimpered Clara. "Should you--should you
write to her?"

"And tell her you didn't mean her nose? Oh, by all means, Clara,--by all
means! Quite an inspiration. Why not make her an evening party?"

"Olive," said Clara, with guilty meekness, "I have been thinking of that."

"_No_, Clara! Not seriously!" cried Olive, sobered at the idea.

"Yes, seriously. Would it be so very bad? Only just a _little_ party,"
she pleaded. "Half a dozen people or so; just to show them that I really
feel--friendly. I know that he's told her all about meeting me here, and
I'm not going to have her think I want to drop him because he's married,
and lives in a little house on Clover Street."

"Noble Clara! So you wish to bring them out in Boston society? What will
you do with them after you've got them there?" Miss Kingsbury fidgeted in
her chair a little. "Now, look me in the eye, Clara! Whom were you going to
ask to meet them? Your unfashionable friends, the Hallecks?"

"My friends, the Hallecks, of course."

"And Mr. Atherton, your legal adviser?"

"I had thought of asking Mr. Atherton. You needn't say what he is, if you
please, Olive; you know that there's no one I prize so much."

"Very good. And Mr. Cameron?"

"He has got back,--yes. He's very nice."

"A Cambridge tutor; very young and of recent attachment to the College,
with no local affiliations, yet. What ladies?"

"Miss Strong is a nice girl; she is studying at the Conservatory."

"Yes. Poverty-stricken votary of Miss Kingsbury. Well?"

"Miss Clancy."

"Unfashionable sister of fashionable artist. Yes?"

"The Brayhems."

"Young radical clergyman, and his wife, without a congregation, and hoping
for a pulpit in Billerica. Parlor lectures on German literature in the mean
time. Well?"

"And Mrs. Savage, I thought."

"Well-preserved young widow of uncertain antecedents tending to grassiness;
out-door _protégée_ of the hostess. Yes, Clara, go on and give your party.
It will be _perfectly safe_! But do you think it will _deceive_ anybody?"

"Now, Olive Halleck!" cried Clara, "I am not going to have you talking to
me in that way! You have no right to do it, and you have no business to do
it," she added, trying to pluck up a spirit. "Is there anybody that I value
more than I do you and your sisters, and Ben?"

"No. But you don't value us _just in that way_, and you know it. Don't you
be a humbug, Clara. Now go on with your excuses."

"I'm not making excuses! Isn't Mr. Atherton in the most fashionable
society?"

"Yes. Why don't you ask some other fashionable people?"

"Olive, this is all nonsense,--perfect nonsense! I can invite any one I
like to meet any one I like, and if I choose to show Mr. Hubbard's wife a
little attention, I can do it, can't I?"

"Oh, of course!"

"And what would be the use of inviting fashionable people--as you call
them--to meet them? It would just embarrass them, all round."

"Perfectly correct, Miss Kingsbury. All that want you to do is to face the
facts of the case. I want you to realize that, in showing Mr. Hubbard's
wife this little attention, you're not doing it because you scorn to drop
an old friend, and want to do him the highest honor; but because you think
you can palm off your second-class acquaintance on them for first-class,
and try to make up in that way for telling her she had a hooked nose!"

"You _know_ that I didn't tell her she had a hooked nose."

"You told her that she was a Roman matron,--it's the same thing," said
Olive.

Miss Kingsbury bit her lip and tried to look a dignified resentment. She
ended by saying, with feeble spite, "I shall have the little evening for
all you say. I suppose you won't refuse to come because I don't ask the
whole Blue Book to meet them."

"Of course we shall come! I wouldn't miss it for anything. I always like to
see how you manage your pieces of social duplicity, Clara. But you needn't
expect that I will be a party to the swindle. No, Clara! I shall go to
these poor young people and tell them plainly, 'This is not the _best_
society; Miss Kingsbury keeps that for--'"

"Olive! I think I never saw even you in such a teasing humor." The tears
came into Clara's large, tender blue eyes, and she continued with an appeal
that had no effect, "I'm sure I don't see why you should make it a question
of anything of the sort. It's simply a wish to--to have a little company of
no particular kind, for no partic--Because I want to."

"Oh, that's it, is it? Then I highly approve of it," said Olive. "When is
it to be?"

"I sha'n't tell you, now! You may wait till I'm ready," pouted Clara, as
she rose to go.

"Don't go away thinking I'm enough to provoke a saint because _you've_ got
mad at me, Clara!"

"Mad? You know I'm not mad! But I think you might be a _little_ sympathetic
_some_times, Olive!" said her friend, kissing her.

"Not in cases of social duplicity, Clara. My wrath is all that saves you.
If you were not afraid of me, you would have been a lost worldling long
ago."

"I know you always really love me," said Miss Kingsbury, tenderly.

"No, I don't," retorted her friend, promptly. "Not when you're humbugging.
Don't expect it, for you won't get it." She followed Clara with a
triumphant laugh as she went out of the door; and except for this parting
taunt Clara might have given up her scheme. She first ordered her _coupé_
driven home, in fact, and then lowered the window to countermand the
direction, and drove to Bartley's door on Clover Street.

It was a very handsome equipage, and was in keeping with all the outward
belongings of Miss Kingsbury, who mingled a sense of duty and a love of
luxury in her life in very exact proportions. When her _coupé_ was not
standing before some of the wretchedest doors in the city, it was waiting
at the finest; and Clara's days were divided between the extremes of
squalor and of fashion.

She was the only child of parents who had early left her an orphan. Her
father, who was much her mother's senior, was an old friend of Olive's
father, and had made him his executor and the guardian of his daughter.
Mr. Halleck had taken her into his own family, and, in the conscientious
pursuance of what he believed would have been her father's preference, he
gave her worldly advantages which he would not have desired for one of his
own children. But the friendship that grew up between Clara and Olive
was too strong for him in some things, and the girls went to the same
fashionable school together.

When his ward came of age he made over to her the fortune, increased by his
careful management, which her father had left her, and advised her to put
her affairs in the hands of Mr. Atherton. She had shown a quite ungirlish
eagerness to manage them for herself; in the midst of her profusion she had
odd accesses of stinginess, in which she fancied herself coming to poverty;
and her guardian judged it best that she should have a lawyer who could
tell her at any moment just where she stood. She hesitated, but she did as
he advised; and having once intrusted her property to Atherton's care, she
added her conscience and her reason in large degree, and obeyed him
with embarrassing promptness in matters that did not interfere with her
pleasures. Her pleasures were of various kinds. She chose to buy herself a
fine house, and, having furnished it luxuriously and unearthed a cousin of
her father's in Vermont and brought her to Boston to matronize her, she
kept house on a magnificent scale, pinching, however, at certain points
with unexpected meanness. When she was alone, her table was of a Spartan
austerity; she exacted a great deal from her servants, and paid them as
small wages as she could. After that she did not mind lavishing money upon
them in kindness. A seamstress whom she had once employed fell sick, and
Miss Kingsbury sent her to the Bahamas and kept her there till she was
well, and then made her a guest in her house till the girl could get back
her work. She watched her cook through the measles, caring for her like a
mother; and, as Olive Halleck said, she was always portioning or burying
the sisters of her second-girls. She was in all sorts of charities, but she
was apt to cut her charities off with her pleasures at any moment, if she
felt poor. She was fond of dress, and went a great deal into society: she
suspected men generally of wishing to marry her for her money, but with
those whom she did not think capable of aspiring to her hand, she was
generously helpful with her riches. She liked to patronize; she had long
supported an unpromising painter at Rome, and she gave orders to desperate
artists at home.

The world had pretty well hardened one half of her heart, but the other
half was still soft and loving, and into this side of her mixed nature she
cowered when she believed she had committed some blunder or crime, and came
whimpering to Olive Halleck for punishment. She made Olive her discipline
partly in her lack of some fixed religion. She had not yet found a religion
that exactly suited her, though she had many times believed herself about
to be anchored in some faith forever.

She was almost sorry that she had put her resolution in effect when she
rang at the door, and Marcia herself answered the bell, in place of the one
servant who was at that moment hanging out the wash. It seemed wicked to
pretend to be showing this pretty creature a social attention, when she
meant to palm off a hollow imitation of society upon her. Why should she
not ask the very superfinest of her friends to meet such a brilliant
beauty? It would serve Olive Halleck right if she should do this, and leave
the Hallecks out; and Marcia would certainly be a sensation. She half
believed that she meant to do it when she quitted the house with Marcia's
promise that she would bring her husband to tea on Wednesday evening, at
eight; and she drove away so far penitent that she resolved at least to
make her company distinguished, if not fashionable. She said to herself
that she would make it fashionable yet, if she chose, and as a first move
in this direction she easily secured Mr. Atherton: he had no engagements,
so few people had got back to town. She called upon Mrs. Witherby,
needlessly reminding her of the charity committees they had served on
together; and then she went home and actually sent out notes to the
plainest daughter and the maiden aunt of two of the most high-born families
of her acquaintance. She added to her list an artist and his wife, ("Now
I shall _have_ to let him paint me!" she reflected,) a young author whose
book had made talk, a teacher of Italian with whom she was pretending to
read Dante, and a musical composer.

Olive came late, as if to get a whole effect of the affair at once; and her
smile revealed Clara's failure to her, if she had not realized it before.
She read there that the aristocratic and aesthetic additions which she had
made to the guests Olive originally divined had not sufficed; the party
remained a humbug. It had seemed absurd to invite anybody to meet two such
little, unknown people as the Hubbards; and then, to avoid marking them as
the subjects of the festivity by the precedence to be observed in going out
to supper, she resolved to have tea served in the drawing-room, and to make
it literally tea, with bread and butter, and some thin, ascetic cakes.

However sharp he was in business, Mr. Witherby was socially a dull man; and
his wife and daughter seemed to partake of his qualities by affinition and
heredity. They tried to make something of Marcia, but they failed through
their want of art. Mrs. Witherby, finding the wife of her husband's
assistant in Miss Kingsbury's house, conceived an awe of her, which Marcia
would not have known how to abate if she had imagined it; and in a little
while the Witherby family segregated themselves among the photograph albums
and the bricabrac, from which Clara seemed to herself to be fruitlessly
detaching them the whole evening. The plainest daughter and the maiden aunt
of the patrician families talked to each other with unavailing intervals of
the painter and the author, and the radical clergyman and his wife were
in danger of a conjugal devotion which society does not favor; the
unfashionable sister of the fashionable artist conversed with the young
tutor and the Japanese law-student whom he had asked leave to bring with
him, and whose small, mouse-like eyes continually twinkled away in pursuit
of the blonde beauty of his hostess. The widow was winningly attentive,
with a tendency to be confidential, to everybody. The Italian could not
disabuse himself of the notion that he was expected to be light and
cheerful, and when the pupil of the Conservatory sang, he abandoned himself
to his error, and clapped and cried bravo with unseemly vivacity. But he
was restored to reason when the composer sat down at the piano and
played, amid the hush that falls on society at such times, something from
Beethoven, and again something of his own, which was so like Beethoven that
Beethoven himself would not have known the difference.

Mr. Atherton and Halleck moved about among the guests, and did their best
to second Clara's efforts for their encouragement; but it was useless. In
the desperation which owns defeat, she resolved to devote herself for the
rest of the evening to trying to make at least the Hubbards have a good
time; and then, upon the dangerous theory, of which young and pretty
hostesses cannot be too wary, that a wife is necessarily flattered by
attentions to her husband, she devoted herself exclusively to Bartley, to
whom she talked long and with a reckless liveliness of the events of his
former stay in Boston. Their laughter and scraps of their reminiscence
reached Marcia where she sat in a feint of listening to Ben Halleck's
perfunctory account of his college days with her husband, till she could
bear it no longer. She rose abruptly, and, going to him, she said that it
was time to say good-night. "Oh, so soon!" cried Clara, mystified and a
little scared at the look she saw on Marcia's face. "Good night," she added
coldly.

The assembly hailed this first token of its disintegration with relief; it
became a little livelier; there was a fleeting moment in which it seemed as
if it might yet enjoy itself; but its chance passed; it crumbled rapidly
away, and Clara was left looking humbly into Olive Halleck's pitiless eyes.
"Thank you for a _delightful_ evening, Miss Kingsbury! Congratulate you!"
she mocked, with an unsparing laugh. "Such a success! But why didn't you
give them something to eat, Clara? Those poor Hubbards have a one-o'clock
dinner, and I famished for them. I wasn't hungry myself,--_we_ have a
two-o'clock dinner!"



XXII.


Bartley came home elate from Miss Kingsbury's entertainment. It was
something like the social success which he used to picture to himself. He
had been flattered by the attention specially paid him, and he did not
detect the imposition. He was half starved, but he meant to have up some
cold meat and bottled beer, and talk it all over with Marcia.

She did not seem inclined to talk it over on their way home, and when they
entered their own door, she pushed in and ran up-stairs. "Why, where are
you going, Marcia?" he called after her.

"To bed!" she replied, closing the door after her with a crash of
unmistakable significance.

Bartley stood a moment in the fury that tempted him to pursue her with a
taunt, and then leave her to work herself out of the transport of senseless
jealousy she had wrought herself into. But he set his teeth, and, full of
inward cursing, he followed her up-stairs with a slow, dogged step. He took
her in his arms without a word, and held her fast, while his anger changed
to pity, and then to laughing. When it came to that, she put up her arms,
which she had kept rigidly at her side, and laid them round his neck, and
began softly to cry on his breast.

"Oh, I'm not myself at all, any more!" she moaned penitently.

"Then this is very improper--for me," said Bartley.

The helpless laughter broke through her lamentation, but she cried a little
more to keep herself in countenance.

"But I guess, from a previous acquaintance with the party's character,
that it's really all you, Marcia. I don't blame you. Miss Kingsbury's
hospitality has left me as hollow as if I'd had nothing to eat for a week;
and I know you're perishing from inanition. Hence these tears."

It delighted her to have him make fun of Miss Kingsbury's tea, and she
lifted her head to let him see that she was laughing for pleasure now,
before she turned away to dry her eyes.

"Oh, poor fellow!" she cried. "I did pity you so when I saw those mean
little slices of bread and butter coming round!"

"Yes," said Bartley, "I felt sorry myself. But don't speak of them any
more, dearest."

"And I suppose," pursued Marcia, "that all the time she was talking to you
there, you were simply ravening."

"I was casting lots in my own mind to see which of the company I should
devour first."

His drollery appeared to Marcia the finest that ever was; she laughed and
laughed again; when he made fun of the conjecturable toughness of the
elderly aristocrat, she implored him to stop if he did not want to kill
her. Marcia was not in the state in which woman best convinces her enemies
of her fitness for empire, though she was charming in her silly happiness,
and Bartley felt very glad that he had not yielded to his first impulse to
deal savagely with her. "Come," he said, "let us go out somewhere, and get
some oysters."

She began at once to take out her ear-rings and loosen her hair. "No,
I'll get something here in the house; I'm not very hungry. But _you_ go,
Bartley, and have a good supper, or you'll be sick to-morrow, and not fit
to work. Go," she added to his hesitating image in the glass, "I insist
upon it. I won't _have_ you stay." His reflected face approached from
behind; she turned hers a little, and their mirrored lips met over her
shoulder. "Oh, how _sweet_ you are, Bartley!" she murmured.

"Yes, you will always find me obedient when commanded to go out and repair
my wasted tissue."

"I don't mean _that_, dear," she said softly. "I mean--your not quarrelling
with me when I'm unreasonable. Why can't we always do so!"

"Well, you see," said Bartley, "it throws the whole burden on the fellow in
his senses. It doesn't require any great degree of self-sacrifice to fly
off at a tangent, but it's rather a maddening spectacle to the party that
holds on."

"Now I will show you," said Marcia, "that I can be reasonable too: I shall
let you go alone to make our party call on Miss Kingsbury." She looked at
him heroically.

"Marcia," said Bartley, "you're such a reasonable person when you're the
most unreasonable, that I wonder I _ever_ quarrel with you. I rather think
I'll let _you_ call on Miss Kingsbury alone. I shall suffer agonies of
suspicion, but it will prove that I have perfect confidence in you." He
threw her a kiss from the door, and ran down the stairs. When he returned,
an hour later, he found her waiting up for him. "Why, Marcia!" he
exclaimed.

"Oh! I just wanted to say that we will both go to call on her _very soon_.
If I sent you, she might think I was mad, and I won't give her that
satisfaction."

"Noble girl!" cried Bartley, with irony that pleased her better than
praise. Women like to be understood, even when they try not to be
understood.

When Marcia went with Bartley to call, Miss Kingsbury received her with
careful, perhaps anxious politeness, but made no further effort to take her
up. Some of the people whom Marcia met at Miss Kingsbury's called; and the
Witherbys came, father, mother, and daughter together; but between the
evident fact that the Hubbards were poor, and the other evident fact that
they moved in the best society, the Witherbys did not quite know what to do
about them. They asked them to dinner, and Bartley went alone; Marcia was
not well enough to go.

He was very kind and tractable, now, and went whenever she bade him go
without her, though tea at the Hallecks was getting to be an old story with
him, and it was generally tea at the Hallecks to which she sent him. The
Halleck ladies came faithfully to see her, and she got on very well with
the two older sisters, who gave her all the kindness they could spare from
their charities, and seemed pleased to have her so pretty and conjugal,
though these things were far from them. But she was afraid of Olive
at first, and disliked her as a friend of Miss Kingsbury. This rather
attracted the odd girl. What she called Marcia's snubs enabled her to
declare in her favor with a sense of disinterestedness, and to indulge her
repugnance for Bartley with a good heart. She resented his odious good
looks, and held it a shame that her mother should promote his visible
tendency to stoutness by giving him such nice things for tea.

"Now, I like Mr. Hubbard," said her mother placidly. "It's very kind of him
to come to such plain folks as we are, whenever we ask him; now that his
wife can't come, I know he does it because he likes us."

"Oh, he comes for the eating," said Olive, scornfully. Then another phase
of her mother's remark struck her: "Why, mother!" she cried, "I do believe
you think Bartley Hubbard's a distinguished man somehow!"

"Your father says it's very unusual for such a young man to be in a place
like his. Mr. Witherby really leaves everything to him, he says."

"Well, I think he'd better not, then! The Events has got to be perfectly
horrid, of late. It's full of murders and all uncleanness."

"That seems to be the way with the papers, nowadays. Your father hears that
the Events is making money."

"Why, mother! What a corrupt old thing you are! I believe you've been
bought up by that disgusting interview with father. Nestor of the Leather
Interest! Father ought to have turned him out of doors. Well, this family
is getting a little _too_ good, for me! And Ben's almost as bad as any of
you, of late,--I haven't a bit of influence with him any more. He seems
determined to be friendlier with that _person_ than ever; he's always
trying to do him good,--I can see it, and it makes me sick. One thing I
know: I'm going to stop Mr. Hubbard's calling me Olive. Impudent!"

Mrs. Halleck shifted her ground with the pretence which women use, even
amongst themselves, of having remained steadfast. "He is a very good
husband."

"Oh, because he likes to be!" retorted her daughter. "Nothing is easier
than to be a good husband."

"Ah, my dear," said Mrs. Halleck, "wait till you have tried."

This made Olive laugh; but she answered with an argument that always had
weight with her mother, "Ben doesn't think he's a good husband."

"What makes you think so, Olive?" asked her mother.

"I know he dislikes him intensely."

"Why, you just said yourself, dear, that he was friendlier with him than
ever."

"Oh, that's nothing. The more he disliked him the kinder he would be to
him."

"That's true," sighed her mother. "Did he ever say anything to you about
him?"

"No," cried Olive, shortly; "he never speaks of people he doesn't like."

The mother returned, with logical severity, "All that doesn't prove that
Ben thinks he isn't a good husband."

"He dislikes him. Do you believe a bad man can be a good husband, then?"

"No," Mrs. Halleck admitted, as if confronted with indisputable proof of
Bartley's wickedness.

In the mean time the peace between Bartley and Marcia continued unbroken,
and these days of waiting, of suffering, of hoping and dreading, were the
happiest of their lives. He did his best to be patient with her caprices
and fretfulness, and he was at least manfully comforting and helpful, and
instant in atonement for every failure. She said a thousand times that she
should die without him; and when her time came, he thought that she was
going to die before he could tell her of his sorrow for all that he had
ever done to grieve her. He did not tell her, though she lived to give him
the chance; but he took her and her baby both into his arms, with tears of
as much fondness as ever a man shed. He even began his confession; but she
said, "Hush! you never did a wrong thing yet that I didn't drive you to."
Pale and faint, she smiled joyfully upon him, and put her hand on his head
when he hid his face against hers on the pillow, and put her lips against
his cheek. His heart was full; he was grateful for the mercy that had
spared him; he was so strong in his silent repentance that he felt like a
good man.

"Bartley," she said, "I'm going to ask a great favor of you."

"There's nothing that I can do that _I_ shall think a favor, darling!" he
cried, lifting his face to look into hers.

"Write for mother to come. I want her!"

"Why, of course." Marcia continued to look at him, and kept the quivering
hold she had laid of his hand when he raised his head. "Was that all?"

She was silent, and he added, "I will ask your father to come with her."

She hid her face for the space of one sob. "I wanted you to offer."

"Why, of course! of course!" he replied.

She did not acknowledge his magnanimity directly, but she lifted the
coverlet and showed him the little head on her arm, and the little creased
and crumpled face.

"Pretty?" she asked. "Bring me the letter before you send it.--Yes, that is
just right,--perfect!" she sighed, when he came back and read the letter to
her; and she fell away to happy sleep.

Her father answered that he would come with her mother as soon as he got
the better of a cold he had taken. It was now well into the winter, and
the journey must have seemed more formidable in Equity than in Boston. But
Bartley was not impatient of his father-in-law's delay, and he set himself
cheerfully about consoling Marcia for it. She stole her white, thin hand
into his, and now and then gave it a little pressure to accent the points
she made in talking.

"Father was the first one I thought of--after you, Bartley. It seems to me
as if baby came half to show me how unfeeling I had been to him. Of course,
I'm not sorry I ran away and asked you to take me back, for I couldn't have
had you if I hadn't done it; but I never realized before how cruel it was
to father. He always made such a pet of me; and I know that he thought he
was acting for the best."

"I knew that _you_ were," said Bartley, fervently.

"What sweet things you always say to me!" she murmured. "But don't you see,
Bartley, that I didn't think enough of him? That's what baby seems to have
come to teach me." She pulled a little away on the pillow, so as to fix him
more earnestly with her eyes. "If baby should behave so to _you_ when she
grew up, I should hate her!"

He laughed, and said, "Well, perhaps your mother hates you."

"No, they don't--either of them," answered Marcia, with a sigh. "And I
behaved very stiffly and coldly with him when he came up to see me,--more
than I had any need to. I did it for your sake; but he didn't mean any harm
to you, he just wanted to make sure that I was safe and well."

"Oh, that's all right, Marsh."

"Yes, I know. But what if he had died!"

"Well, he didn't die," said Bartley, with a smile. "And you've corresponded
with them regularly, ever since, and you know they've been getting along
all right. And it's going to be altogether different from this out," he
added, leaning back a little weary with a matter in which he could not be
expected to take a very cordial interest.

"Truly?" she asked, with one of the eagerest of those hand-pressures.

"It won't be my fault if it isn't," he replied, with a yawn.

"How good you are, Bartley!" she said, with an admiring look, as if it were
the goodness of God she was praising.

Bartley released himself, and went to the new crib, in which the baby lay,
and with his hands in his pockets stood looking down at it with a curious
smile.

"Is it pretty?" she asked, envious of his bird's-eye view of the baby.

"Not definitively so," he answered. "I dare say she will smooth out in
time; but she seems to be considerably puckered yet."

"Well," returned Marcia, with forced resignation, "I shouldn't let any one
else say so."

Her husband set up a soft, low, thoughtful whistle. "I'll tell you what,
Marcia," he said presently. "Suppose we name this baby after your father?"

She lifted herself on her elbow, and stared at him as if he must be making
fun of her. "Why, how could we?" she demanded. Squire Gaylord's parents
had called his name Flavius Josephus, in a superstition once cherished
by old-fashioned people, that the Jewish historian was somehow a sacred
writer.

"We can't name her Josephus, but we can call her Flavia," said Bartley.
"And if she makes up her mind to turn out a blonde, the name will just fit.
Flavia,--it's a very pretty name." He looked at his wife, who suddenly
turned her face down on the pillow.

"Bartley Hubbard," she cried, "you're the best man in the world!"

"Oh, no! Only the second-best," suggested Bartley.

In these days they took their fill of the delight of young fatherhood and
motherhood. After its morning bath Bartley was called in, and allowed to
revere the baby's mottled and dimpled back as it lay face downward on
the nurse's lap, feebly wiggling its arms and legs, and responding with
ineffectual little sighs and gurgles to her acceptable rubbings with warm
flannel. When it was fully dressed, and its long clothes pulled snugly
down, and its limp person stiffened into something tenable, he was suffered
to take it into his arms, and to walk the room with it. After all, there
is not much that a man can actually do with a small baby, either for its
pleasure or his own, and Barkley's usefulness had its strict limitations.
He was perhaps most beneficial when he put the child in its mother's arms,
and sat down beside the bed, and quietly talked, while Marcia occasionally
put up a slender hand, and smoothed its golden brown hair, bending her neck
over to look at it where it lay, with the action of a mother bird. They
examined with minute interest the details of the curious little creature:
its tiny finger-nails, fine and sharp, and its small queer fist doubled so
tight, and closing on one's finger like a canary's claw on a perch; the
absurdity of its foot, the absurdity of its toes, the ridiculous inadequacy
of its legs and arms to the work ordinarily expected of legs and arms, made
them laugh. They could not tell yet whether its eyes would be black like
Marcia's, or blue like Bartley's; those long lashes had the sweep of hers,
but its mop of hair, which made it look so odd and old, was more like his
in color.

"She will be a dark-eyed blonde," Bartley decided.

"Is that nice?" asked Marcia.

"With the telescope sight, they're warranted to kill at five hundred
yards."

"Oh, for shame, Bartley! To talk of baby's ever killing!"

"Why, that's what they all come to. It's what you came to yourself."

"Yes, I know. But it's quite another thing with baby." She began to mumble
it with her lips, and to talk baby-talk to it. In their common interest in
this puppet they already called each other papa and mamma.

Squire Gaylord came alone, and when Marcia greeted him with "Why, father!
Where's mother?" he asked, "Did you expect her? Well, I guess your mother's
feeling rather too old for such long winter journeys. You know she don't
go out a great deal _I_ guess she expects your family down there in the
summer."

The old man was considerably abashed by the baby when it was put into his
arms, and being required to guess its name he naturally failed.

"Flavia!" cried Marcia, joyfully. "Bartley named it after you."

This embarrassed the Squire still more. "Is that so?" he asked, rather
sheepishly. "Well, it's quite a compliment."

Marcia repeated this to her husband as evidence that her father was all
right now. Bartley and the Squire were in fact very civil to each other;
and Bartley paid the old man many marked attentions. He took him to the
top of the State House, and walked him all about the city, to show him its
points of interest, and introduced him to such of his friends as they met,
though the Squire's dresscoat, whether fully revealed by the removal of his
surtout, or betraying itself below the skirt of the latter, was a trial
to a fellow of Bartley's style. He went with his father-in-law to see Mr.
Warren in Jefferson Scattering Batkins, and the Squire grimly appreciated
the burlesque of the member from Cranberry Centre; but he was otherwise
not a very amusable person, and off his own ground he was not conversable,
while he refused to betray his impressions of many things that Bartley
expected to astonish him. The Events editorial rooms had no apparent
effect upon him, though they were as different from most editorial dens as
tapestry carpets, black-walnut desks, and swivel chairs could make them.
Mr. Witherby covered him with urbanities and praises of Bartley that ought
to have delighted him as a father-in-law; but apparently the great man of
the Events was but a strange variety of the type with which he was familiar
in the despised country editors. He got on better with Mr. Atherton,
who was of a man's profession. The Squire wore his hat throughout their
interview, and everywhere except at table and in bed; and as soon as he
rose front either, he put it on.

Bartley tried to impress him with such novel traits of cosmopolitan life as
a _table d'hôte_ dinner at a French restaurant; but the Squire sat through
the courses, as if his barbarous old appetite had satisfied itself in
that manner all his life. After that, Bartley practically gave him up; he
pleaded his newspaper work, and left the Squire to pass the time as he
could in the little house on Clover Street, where he sat half a day at a
stretch in the parlor, with his hat on, reading the newspapers, his legs
sprawled out towards the grate. In this way he probably reconstructed for
himself some image of his wonted life in his office at home, and was for
the time at peace; but otherwise he was very restless, except when he was
with Marcia. He was as fond of her in his way as he had ever been, and
though he apparently cared nothing for the baby, he enjoyed Marcia's pride
in it; and he bore to have it thrust upon him with the surly mildness of an
old dog receiving children's caresses. He listened with the same patience
to all her celebrations of Bartley, which were often tedious enough, for
she bragged of him constantly, of his smartness and goodness, and of the
great success that had crowned the merit of both in him.

Mr. Halleck had called upon the Squire the morning after his arrival, and
brought Marcia a note from his wife, offering to have her father stay with
them if she found herself too much crowded at this eventful time. "There!
That is just the sort of people the Hallecks are!" she cried, showing the
letter to her father. "And to think of our not going near them for months
and mouths after we came to Boston, for fear they were stuck up! But
Bartley is always just so proud. Now you must go right in, father, and not
keep Mr. Halleck waiting. Give me your hat, or you'll be sure to wear it
in the parlor." She made him stoop down to let her brush his coat-collar a
little. "There! Now you look something like."

Squire Gaylord had never received a visit except on business in his life,
and such a thing as one man calling socially upon another, as women did,
was unknown to the civilization of Equity. But, as he reported to Marcia,
he got along with Mr. Halleck; and he got along with the whole family when
he went with Bartley to tea, upon the invitation Mr. Halleck made him that
morning. Probably it appeared to him an objectless hospitality; but he
spent as pleasant an evening as he could hope to spend with his hat off
and in a frock-coat, which he wore as a more ceremonious garment than the
dress-coat of his every-day life. He seemed to take a special liking to
Olive Halleck, whose habit of speaking her mind with vigor and directness
struck him as commendable. It was Olive who made the time pass for him;
and as the occasion was not one for personal sarcasm or question of the
Christian religion, her task in keeping the old pagan out of rather abysmal
silences must have had its difficulties.

"What did you talk about?" asked Marcia, requiring an account of his
enjoyment from him the next morning, after Bartley had gone down to his
work.

"Mostly about you, I guess," said the Squire, with a laugh. "There was a
large sandy-haired young woman there--"

"Miss Kingsbury," said Marcia, with vindictive promptness. Her eyes
kindled, and she began to grow rigid under the coverlet. "Whom did _she_
talk with?"

"Well, she talked a little with me; but she talked most of the time to the
young man. She engaged to him?"

"No," said Marcia, relaxing. "She's a great friend of the whole family. I
don't know what they meant by telling you it was to be just a family party,
when they were going to have strangers in," she pouted.

"Perhaps they didn't count her."

"No." But Marcia's pleasure in the affair was tainted, and she began to
talk of other things.

Her father stayed nearly a week, and they all found it rather a long week.
After showing him her baby, and satisfying herself that he and Bartley were
on good terms again, there was not much left for Marcia. Bartley had been
banished to the spare room by the presence of the nurse; and he gave up his
bed there to the Squire, and slept on a cot in the unfurnished attic room;
the cook and a small girl got in to help, had the other. The house that had
once seemed so vast was full to bursting.

"I never knew how little it was till I saw your father coming down stairs,"
said Bartley. "He's too tall for it. When he sits on the sofa, and
stretches out his legs, his boots touch the mop-board on the other side of
the room. Fact!"

"He won't stay over Sunday," began Marcia, with a rueful smile.

"Why, Marcia, you don't think I want him to go!"

"No, you're as good as can be about it. But I hope he won't stay over
Sunday."

"Haven't you enjoyed his visit?" asked Bartley.

"Oh, yes, I've enjoyed it." The tears came into her eyes. "I've made it all
up with father; and he doesn't feel hard to me. But, Bartley--Sit down,
dear, here on the bed!" She took his hand and gently pulled him down. "I
see more and more that father and mother can never be what they used to be
to me,--that you're all the world to me. Yes, my life is broken off from
theirs forever. Could anything break it off from yours? You'll always be
patient with me, won't you? and remember that I'd always rather be good
when I'm behaving the worst?"

He rose, and went over to the crib, and kissed the head of their little
girl. "Ask Flavia," he said from the door.

"Bartley!" she cried, in utter fondness, as he vanished from her happy
eyes.

The next morning they heard the Squire moving about in his room, and he was
late in coming down to breakfast, at which he was ordinarily so prompt.
"He's packing," said Marcia, sadly. "It's dreadful to be willing to have
him go!"

Bartley went out and met him at his door, bag in hand. "Hollo!" he cried,
and made a decent show of surprise and regret.

"M-yes!" said the old man, as they went down stairs. "I've made out a
visit. But I'm an old fellow, and I ain't easy away from home. I shall tell
Mis' Gaylord how you're gettin' along, and she'll be pleased to hear
it. Yes, she'll be pleased to hear it. I guess I shall get off on the
ten-o'clock train."

The conversation between Bartley and his father-in-law was perfunctory. Men
who have dealt so plainly with each other do not assume the conventional
urbanities in their intercourse without effort. They had both been growing
more impatient of the restraint; they could not have kept it up much
longer.

"Well, I suppose it's natural you should want to be home again, but I
can't understand how any one can want to go back to Equity when he has the
privilege of staying in Boston."

"Boston will do for a young man," said the Squire, "but I'm too old for
it. The city cramps me; it's too tight a fit; and yet I can't seem to find
myself in it."

He suffered from the loss of identity which is a common affliction with
country people coming to town. The feeling that they are of no special
interest to any of the thousands they meet bewilders and harasses them;
after the searching neighborhood of village life, the fact that nobody
would meddle in their most intimate affairs if they could, is a vague
distress. The Squire not only experienced this, but, after reigning so long
as the censor of morals and religion in Equity, it was a deprivation for
him to pass a whole week without saying a bitter thing to any one. He was
tired of the civilities that smoothed him down on every side.

"Well, if you must go," said Bartley, "I'll order a hack."

"I guess I can walk to the depot," returned the old man.

"Oh, no, you can't." Bartley drove to the station with him, and they bade
each other adieu with a hand-shake. They were no longer enemies, but they
liked each other less than ever.

"See you in Equity next summer, I suppose?" suggested the Squire.

"So Marcia says," replied Bartley. "Well, take care of yourself.--You
confounded, tight-fisted old woodchuck!" he added under his breath, for the
Squire had allowed him to pay the hack fare.

He walked home, composing variations on his parting malison, to find that
the Squire had profited by his brief absence while ordering the hack, to
leave with Marcia a silver cup, knife, fork, and spoon, which Olive Halleck
had helped him choose, for the baby. In the cup was a check for five
hundred dollars. The Squire was embarrassed in presenting the gifts, and
when Marcia turned upon him with, "Now, look here, father, what do you
mean?" he was at a loss how to explain.

"Well, it's what I always meant to do for you."

"Baby's things are all right," said Marcia. "But I'm not going to let
Bartley take any money from you, unless you think as well of him as I do,
and say so, right out."

The Squire laughed. "You couldn't quite expect me to do that, could you?"

"No, of course not. But what I mean is, do you think _now_ that I did right
to marry him?"

"Oh, _you're_ all right, Marcia. I'm glad you're getting along so well."

"No, no! Is Bartley all right?"

The Squire laughed again, and rubbed his chin in enjoyment of her
persistence. "You can't expect me to own up to everything all at once."

"So you see, Bartley," said Marcia, in repeating these words to him, "it
was quite a concession."

"Well, I don't know about the concession, but I guess there's no doubt
about the check," replied Bartley.

"Oh, don't say that, dear!" protested his wife. "I think father was pleased
with his visit every way. I know he's been anxious about me, all the time;
and yet it was a good deal for him to do, after what he had said, to come
down here and as much as take it all back. Can't you look at it from his
side?"

"Oh, I dare say it was a dose," Bartley admitted. The money had set several
things in a better light. "If all the people that have abused me would take
it back as handsomely as your father has,"--he held the check up,--"why, I
wish there were twice as many of them."

She laughed for pleasure in his joke. "I think father was impressed by
everything about us,--beginning with baby," she said, proudly.

"Well, he kept his impressions to himself."

"Oh, that's nothing but his way. He never was demonstrative,--like me."

"No, he has his emotions under control,--not to say under lock and
key,--not to add, in irons."

Bartley went on to give some instances of the Squire's fortitude when
apparently tempted to express pleasure or interest in his Boston
experiences.

They both undeniably felt freer now that he was gone. Bartley stayed
longer than he ought from his work, in tacit celebration of the Squire's
departure, and they were very merry together; but when he left her, Marcia
called for her baby, and, gathering it close to her heart, sighed over it,
"Poor father! poor father!"



XXIII.


When the spring opened, Bartley pushed Flavia about the sunny pavements in
a baby carriage, while Marcia paced alongside, looking in under the calash
top from time to time, arranging the bright afghan, and twitching
the little one's lace hood into place. They never noticed that other
perambulators were pushed by Irish nurse-girls or French _bonnes_; they had
paid somewhat more than they ought for theirs, and they were proud of it
merely as a piece of property. It was rather Bartley's ideal, as it is that
of most young American fathers, to go out with his wife and baby in that
way; he liked to have his friends see him; and he went out every afternoon
he could spare. When he could not go, Marcia went alone. Mrs. Halleck had
given her a key to the garden, and on pleasant mornings she always found
some of the family there, when she pushed the perambulator up the path, to
let the baby sleep in the warmth and silence of the sheltered place. She
chatted with Olive or the elder sisters, while Mrs. Halleck drove Cyrus
on to the work of tying up the vines and trimming the shrubs, with the
pitiless rigor of women when they get a man about some outdoor labor.
Sometimes, Ben Halleck was briefly of the party; and one morning when
Marcia opened the gate, she found him there alone with Cyrus, who was
busy at some belated tasks of horticulture. The young man turned at the
unlocking of the gate, and saw Marcia lifting the front wheels of the
perambulator to get it over the steps of the pavement outside. He limped
hastily down the walk to help her, but she had the carriage in the path
before he could reach, her, and he had nothing to do but to walk back at
its side, as she propelled it towards the house. "You see what a useless
creature a cripple is," he said.

Marcia did not seem to have heard him. "Is your mother at home?" she asked.

"I think she is," said Halleck. "Cyrus, go in and tell mother that Mrs.
Hubbard is here, won't you?"

Cyrus went, after a moment of self-respectful delay, and Marcia sat down
on a bench under a pear-tree beside the walk. Its narrow young leaves and
blossoms sprinkled her with shade shot with vivid sunshine, and in her
light dress she looked like a bright, fresh figure from some painter's
study of spring. She breathed quickly from her exertion, and her cheeks had
a rich, dewy bloom. She had pulled the perambulator round so that she might
see her baby while she waited, and she looked at the baby now, and not at
Halleck, as she said, "It is quite hot in the sun to-day." She had a way of
closing her lips, after speaking, in that sweet smile of hers, and then of
glancing sidelong at the person to whom she spoke.

"I suppose it is," said Halleck, who remained on foot. "But I haven't been
out yet. I gave myself a day off from the Law School, and I hadn't quite
decided what to do with it."

Marcia leaned forward, and brushed a tendril of the baby's hair out of its
eye. "She's the greatest little sleeper that ever was when she gets into
her carriage," she half mused, leaning back with her hands folded in her
lap, and setting her head on one side for the effect of the baby without
the stray ringlet. "She's getting so fat!" she said, proudly.

Halleck smiled. "Do you find it makes a difference in pushing her carriage,
from day to day?"

Marcia took his question in earnest, as she must take anything but the most
obvious pleasantry concerning her baby. "The carriage runs very easily; we
picked out the lightest one we could, and I never have any trouble with it,
except getting up curbstones and crossing Cambridge Street. I don't like to
cross Cambridge Street, there are always so many horse-cars. But it's all
down-hill coming here: that's one good thing."

"That makes it a very bad thing going home, though," said Halleck.

"Oh, I go round by Charles Street, and come up the hill from the other
side; it isn't so steep there."

There was no more to be said upon this point, and in the lapse of their
talk Halleck broke off some boughs of the blooming pear, and dropped them
on the baby's afghan.

"Your mother won't like your spoiling her pear-tree," said Marcia,
seriously.

"She will when she knows that I did it for Miss Hubbard."

"Miss Hubbard!" repeated the young mother, and she laughed in fond
derision. "How funny to hear you saying that! I thought you hated babies!"

Halleck looked at her with strong self-disgust, and he dropped the bough
which he had in his hand upon the ground. There is something in a young
man's ideal of women, at once passionate and ascetic, so fine that any
words are too gross for it. The event which intensified the interest of his
mother and sisters in Marcia had abashed Halleck; when she came so proudly
to show her baby to them all, it seemed to him like a mockery of his pity
for her captivity to the love that profaned her. He went out of the room in
angry impatience, which he could hardly hide, when one of his sisters tried
to make him take the baby. Little by little his compassion adjusted itself
to the new conditions; it accepted the child as an element of her misery in
the future, when she must realize the hideous deformity of her marriage.
His prophetic feeling of this, and of her inaccessibility to human help
here and hereafter, made him sometimes afraid of her; but all the more
severely he exacted of his ideal of her that she should not fall beneath
the tragic dignity of her fate through any levity of her own. Now, at her
innocent laugh, a subtile irreverence, which he was not able to exorcise,
infused itself into his sense of her.

He stood looking at her, after he dropped the pear-bough, and seeing
her mere beauty as he had never seen it before. The bees hummed in the
blossoms, which gave out a dull, sweet smell; the sunshine had the
luxurious, enervating warmth of spring. He started suddenly from his
reverie: Marcia had said something. "I beg your pardon?" he queried.

"Oh, nothing. I asked if you knew where I went to church yesterday?"

Halleck flushed, ashamed of the wrong his thoughts, or rather his emotions,
had done. "No, I don't," he answered.

"I was at your church."

"I ought to have been there myself," he returned, gravely, "and then I
should have known."

She took his self-reproach literally. "You couldn't have seen me. I was
sitting pretty far back, and I went out before any of your family saw me.
Don't you go there?"

"Not always, I'm sorry to say. Or, rather, I'm sorry not to be sorry. What
church do you generally go to?"

"Oh, I don't know. Sometimes to one, and sometimes to another. Bartley used
to report the sermons, and we went round to all the churches then. That is
the way I did at home, and it came natural to me. But I don't like it very
well. I want Flavia should belong to some particular church."

"There are enough to choose from," said Halleck, with pensive sarcasm.

"Yes, that's the difficulty. But I shall make up my mind to one of them,
and then I shall always keep to it. What I mean is that I should like to
find out where most of the good people belong, and then have her be with
them," pursued Marcia. "I think it's best to belong to some church, don't
you?"

There was something so bare, so spiritually poverty-stricken, in these
confessions and questions, that Halleck found nothing to say to them.
He was troubled, moreover, as to what the truth was in his own mind. He
answered, with a sort of mechanical adhesion to the teachings of his youth,
"I should be a recreant not to think so. But I'm not sure that I know what
you mean by belonging to some church," he added. "I suppose you would want
to believe in the creed of the church, whichever it was."

"I don't know that I should be particular," said Marcia, with perfect
honesty.

Halleck laughed sadly. "I'm afraid _they_ would, then, unless you joined
the Broad Church."

"What is that?" He explained as well as he could. At the end she repeated,
as if she had not followed him very closely: "I should like her to belong
to the church where most of the good people went. I think that would be the
right one, if you could only find which it is." Halleck laughed again. "I
suppose what I say must sound very queer to you; but I've been thinking a
good deal about this lately."

"I beg your pardon," said Halleck. "I had no reason to laugh, either on
your account or my own. It's a serious subject." She did not reply, and he
asked, as if she had left the subject, "Do you intend to pass the summer in
Boston?"

"No; I'm going down home pretty early, and I wanted to ask your mother what
is the best way to put away my winter things."

"You'll find my mother very good authority on such matters," said Halleck.
Through an obscure association with moths that corrupt, he added, "She's a
good authority on church matters, too."

"I guess I shall talk with her about Flavia," said Marcia.

Cyrus came out of the house. "Mis' Halleck will be here in a minute. She's
got to get red of a lady that's calling, first," he explained.

"I will leave you, then," said Halleck, abruptly.

"Good by," answered Marcia, tranquilly. The baby stirred; she pushed the
carriage to and fro, without glancing after him as he walked away.

His mother came down the steps from the house, and kissed Marcia for
welcome, and looked under the carriage-top at the sleeping baby. "How she
_does_ sleep!" she whispered.

"Yes," said Marcia, with the proud humility of a mother, who cannot deny
the merit of her child, "and she sleeps the whole night through. I'm
_never_ up with her. Bartley says she's a perfect Seven-Sleeper. It's a
regular joke with him,--her sleeping."

"Ben was a good baby for sleeping, too," said Mrs. Halleck, retrospectively
emulous. "It's one of the best signs. It shows that the child is strong and
healthy." They went on to talk of their children, and in their community of
motherhood they spoke of the young man as if he were still an infant. "He
has never been a moment's care to me," said Mrs. Halleck. "A well baby will
be well even in teething."

"And I had somehow thought of him as sickly!" said Marcia, in
self-derision.

Tears of instant intelligence sprang into his mother's eyes. "And did you
suppose he was _always_ lame?" she demanded, with gentle indignation. "He
was the brightest and strongest boy that ever was, till he was twelve years
old. That's what makes it so hard to bear; that's what makes me wonder at
the way the child bears it! Did you never hear how it happened? One of the
big boys, as he called him, tripped him up at school, and he fell on his
hip. It kept him in bed for a year, and he's never been the same since;
he will always be a cripple," grieved the mother. She wiped her eyes; she
never could think of her boy's infirmity without weeping. "And what seemed
the worst of all," she continued, "was that the boy who did it never
expressed any regret for it, or acknowledged it by word or deed, though
he must have known that Ben knew who hurt him. He's a man here, now; and
sometimes Ben meets him. But Ben always says that he can stand it, if the
other one can. He was always just so from the first! He wouldn't let us
blame the boy; he said that he didn't mean any harm, and that all was fair
in play. And now he says he knows the man is sorry, and would own to what
he did, if he didn't have to own to what came of it. Ben says that very few
of us have the courage to face the consequences of the injuries we do, and
that's what makes people seem hard and indifferent when they are really not
so. There!" cried Mrs. Halleck. "I don't know as I ought to have told you
about it; I know Ben wouldn't like it. But I can't bear to have any one
think he was always lame, though I don't know why I shouldn't: I'm prouder
of him since it happened than ever I was before. I thought he was here with
you," she added, abruptly.

"He went out just before you came," said Marcia, nodding toward the gate.
She sat listening to Mrs. Halleck's talk about Ben; Mrs. Halleck took
herself to task from time to time, but only to go on talking about him
again. Sometimes Marcia commented on his characteristics, and compared them
with Bartley's, or with Flavia's, according to the period of Ben's life
under consideration.

At the end Mrs. Halleck said: "I haven't let you get in a word! Now you
must talk about _your_ baby. Dear little thing! I feel that she's been
neglected. But I'm always just so selfish when I get to running on about
Ben. They all laugh at me."

"Oh, I like to hear about other children," said Marcia, turning the
perambulator round. "I don't think any one can know too much that has the
care of children of their own." She added, as if it followed from something
they had been saying of vaccination, "Mrs. Halleck, I want to talk with you
about getting Flavia christened. You know I never was christened."

"Weren't you?" said Mrs. Halleck, with a dismay which she struggled to
conceal.

"No," said Marcia, "father doesn't believe in any of those things, and
mother had got to letting them go, because he didn't take any interest in
them. They did have the first children christened, but I was the last."

"I didn't speak with your father on the subject," faltered Mrs. Halleck. "I
didn't know what his persuasion was."

"Why, father doesn't belong to _any_ church! He believes in a God, but he
doesn't believe in the Bible." Mrs. Halleck sank down on the garden seat
too much shocked to speak, and Marcia continued. "I don't know whether the
Bible is true or not; but I've often wished that I belonged to church."

"You couldn't, unless you believed in the Bible," said Mrs. Halleck.

"Yes, I know that. Perhaps I should, if anybody proved it to me. I presume
it could be explained. I never talked much with any one about it. There
must be a good many people who don't belong to church, although they
believe in the Bible. I should be perfectly willing to try, if I only knew
how to begin."

In view of this ruinous open-mindedness, Mrs. Halleck could only say, "The
way to begin is to read it."

"Well, I will try. How do you know, after you've become so that you believe
the Bible, whether you're fit to join the church?"

"It's hard to tell you, my dear. You have to feel first that you have a
Saviour,--that you've given your whole heart to him,--that he can save you,
and that no one else can,--that all you can do yourself won't help you.
It's an experience."

Marcia looked at her attentively, as if this were all a very hard saying.
"Yes, I've heard of that. Some of the girls had it at school. But I never
did. Well," she said at last, "I don't feel so anxious about myself, just
at present, as I do about Flavia. I want to do everything I can for Flavia,
Mrs. Halleck. I want her to be christened,--I want her to be baptized into
some church. I think a good deal about it. I think sometimes, what if she
should die, and I hadn't done that for her, when may be it was one of
the most important things--" Her voice shook, and she pressed her lips
together.

"Of course," said Mrs. Halleck, tenderly, "I think it is the _most_
important thing."

"But there are so many churches," Marcia resumed. "And I don't know about
any of them. I told Mr. Halleck just now, that I should like her to belong
to the church where the best people went, if I could find it out. Of
course, it was a ridiculous way to talk; I knew he thought so. But what I
meant was that I wanted she should be with good people all her life; and I
didn't care what she believed."

"It's very important to believe the truth, my dear," said Mrs. Halleck.

"But the truth is so hard to be certain of, and you know goodness as soon
as you see it. Mrs. Halleck, I'll tell you what I want: I want Flavia
should be baptized into your church. Will you let her?"

"_Let_ her? O my dear child, we shall be humbly thankful that it has been
put into your heart to choose for her what _we_ think is the true church,"
said Mrs. Halleck, fervently.

"I don't know about that," returned Marcia. "I can't tell whether it's the
true church or not, and I don't know that I ever could; but I shall be
satisfied--if it's made you what you are," she added, simply.

Mrs. Halleck did not try to turn away her praise with vain affectations of
humility. "We try to do right, Marcia," she said. "Whenever we do it, we
must be helped to it by some power outside of ourselves. I can't tell you
whether it's our church; I'm not so sure of that as I used to be. I once
thought that there could be no real good out of it; but I _can't_ think
that, any more. Olive and Ben are as good children as ever lived; I _know_
they won't be lost; but neither of them belongs to our church."

"Why, what church does he belong to?"

"He doesn't belong to any, my dear," said Mrs. Halleck, sorrowfully.

Marcia looked at her absently. "I knew Olive was a Unitarian; but I
thought--I thought he--"

"No, he doesn't," returned Mrs. Halleck. "It has been a great cross to
his father and me. He is a good boy; but we think the _truth_ is in our
church!"

Marcia was silent a moment. Then she said, decisively, "Well, I should like
Flavia to belong to your church."

"She couldn't belong to it now," Mrs. Halleck explained. "That would have
to come later, when she could understand. But she could be christened in
it--dear little thing!"

"Well, christened, then. It must be the training he got in it. I've thought
a great deal about it, and I think my worst trouble is that I've been left
too free in everything. One mustn't be left too free. I've never had any
one to control me, and now I can't control myself at the very times when I
need to do it the most, with--with--When I 'in in danger of vexing--When
Bartley and I--"

"Yes," said Mrs. Halleck, sympathetically.

"And Bartley is just so, too. He's always been left to himself. And Flavia
will need all the control we can give her,--I know she will. And I shall
have her christened in your church, and I shall teach her all about it. She
shall go to the Sunday school, and I will go to church, so that she can
have an example. I told father I should do it when he was up here, and he
said there couldn't be any harm in it. And I've told Bartley, and _he_
doesn't care."

They were both far too single-minded and too serious to find anything droll
in the terms of the adhesion of Marcia's family to her plan, and Mrs.
Halleck entered into its execution with affectionate zeal.

"Ben, dear," she said, tenderly, that evening, when they were all talking
it over in the family council, "I hope you didn't drop anything, when that
poor creature spoke to you about it this morning, that could unsettle her
mind in any way?"

"No, mother," said Halleck, gently.

"I was sure you didn't," returned his mother, repentantly.

They had been talking a long time of the matter, and Halleck now left the
room.

"Mother! How could you say such a thing to Ben?" cried Olive, in a quiver
of indignant sympathy. "Ben say anything to unsettle anybody's religious
purposes! He's got more religion now than all the rest of the family put
together!"

"Speak for yourself, Olive," said one of the intermediary sisters.

"Why, Olive, I spoke because I thought she seemed to place more importance
on Ben's belonging to the church than anything else, and she seemed so
surprised when I told her he didn't belong to any."

"I dare say she thinks Ben is good when she compares him with that mass of
selfishness of a husband of hers," said Olive. "But I will thank her," she
added, hotly, "not to compare Ben with Bartley Hubbard, even to Bartley
Hubbard's disadvantage. I don't feel flattered by it."

"Of course she thinks all the world of her husband," said Mrs. Halleck.
"And I know Ben is good; and, as you say, he is religious; I feel that,
though I don't understand how, exactly. I wouldn't hurt his feelings for
the world, Olive, you know well enough. But it was a stumbling-block when I
had to tell that poor, pretty young thing that Ben didn't belong to church;
and I could see that it puzzled her. I couldn't have believed," continued
Mrs. Halleck, "that there was any person in a Christian land, except among
the very lowest, that seemed to understand so little about the Christian
religion, or any scheme of salvation. Really, she talked to me like a
pagan. She sat there much better dressed and better educated than I was;
but I felt like a missionary talking to a South Sea Islander."

"I wonder the old Bartlett pear didn't burst into a palm-tree over your
heads," said Olive. Mrs. Halleck looked grieved at her levity, and Olive
hastened to add: "Don't take it to heart, mother! I understood just what
you meant, and I can imagine just how shocking Mrs. Hubbard's heathen
remarks must have been. We should all be shocked if we knew how many people
there were like her, and we should all try to deny it, and so would they. I
guess Christianity is about as uncommon as civilization,--and that's _very_
uncommon. If her poor, feeble mind was such a chaos, what do you suppose
her husband's is?"

This would certainly not have been easy for Mrs. Halleck to say then, or
to say afterward, when Bartley walked up to the font in her church, with
Marcia at his side, and Flavia in his arms, and a faintly ironical smile on
his face, as if he had never expected to be got in for this, but was going
to see it through now. He had, in fact, said, "Well, let's go the whole
figure," when Marcia had expressed a preference for having the rite
performed in church, instead of in their own house.

He was unquestionably growing stout, and even Mrs. Halleck noticed that
his blonde face was unpleasantly red that day. He was, of course, not
intemperate. He always had beer with his lunch, which he had begun to take
down town since the warm weather had come on and made the walk up the hill
to Clover Street irksome: and he drank beer at his dinner,--he liked a late
dinner, and they dined at six, now,--because it washed away the fatigues
of the day, and freshened you up. He was rather particular about his beer,
which he had sent in by the gross,--it came cheaper that way; after trying
both the Cincinnati and the Milwaukee lagers, and making a cursory test
of the Boston brand, he had settled down upon the American tivoli; it
was cheap, and you could drink a couple of bottles without feeling it.
Freshened up by his two bottles, he was apt to spend the evening in an
amiable drowse and get early to bed, when he did not go out on newspaper
duty. He joked about the three fingers of fat on his ribs, and frankly
guessed it was the beer that did it; at such times he said that perhaps he
should have to cut down on his tivoli.

Marcia and he had not so much time together as they used to have; she was a
great deal taken up with the baby, and he found it dull at home, not doing
anything or saying anything; and when he did not feel sleepy, he sometimes
invented work that took him out at night. But he always came upstairs after
putting his hat on, and asked Marcia if he could help her about anything.

He usually met other newspaper men on these excursions, and talked
newspaper with them, airing his favorite theories. He liked to wander
about with reporters who were working up cases; to look in at the police
stations, and go to the fires; and he was often able to give the Events men
points that had escaped the other reporters. If asked to drink, he always
said, "Thanks, no; I don't do anything in that way. But if you'll make it
beer, I don't mind." He took nothing but beer when he hurried out of the
theatre into one of the neighboring resorts, just as the great platters of
stewed kidneys and lyonnaise potatoes came steaming up out of the kitchen,
prompt to the drop of the curtain on the last act. Here; sometimes, he met
a friend, and shared with him his dish of kidneys and his schooner of beer;
and he once suffered himself to be lured by the click of the balls into the
back room. He believed that he played a very good game of billiards; but he
was badly beaten that night. He came home at daylight, fifty dollars out.
But he had lost like a gentleman in a game with gentlemen; and he never
played again.

By day he worked hard, and since his expenses had been increased by
Flavia's coming, he had undertaken more work for more pay. He still
performed all the routine labor of a managing editor, and he now wrote the
literary notices of the Events, and sometimes, especially if there was
anything new, the dramatic criticisms; he brought to the latter task all
the freshness of a man who, till the year before, had not been half a dozen
times inside a theatre.

He attributed the fat on his ribs to the tivoli; perhaps it was also owing
in some degree to a good conscience, which is a much easier thing to keep
than people imagine. At any rate, he now led a tranquil, industrious, and
regular life, and a life which suited him so well that he was reluctant to
interrupt it by the visit to Equity, which he and Marcia had talked of in
the early spring. He put it off from time to time, and one day when she was
pressing him to fix some date for it he said, "Why can't you go, Marcia?"

"Alone?" she faltered.

"Well, no; take the baby, of course. And I'll run down for a day or two
when I get a chance."

Marcia seemed in these days to be schooling herself against the impulses
that once brought on her quarrels with Bartley. "A day or two--" she began,
and then stopped and added gravely, "I thought you said you were going to
have several weeks' vacation."

"Oh, don't tell me what I _said_!" cried Bartley. "That was before I
undertook this extra work, or before I knew what a grind it was going to
be. Equity is a good deal of a dose for me, any way. It's all well enough
for you, and I guess the change from Boston will do you good, and do the
baby good, but _I_ shouldn't look forward to three weeks in Equity with
unmitigated hilarity."

"I know it will be stupid for you. But you need the rest. And the Hallecks
are going to be at North Conway, and they said they would come over," urged
Marcia. "I know we should have a good time."

Bartley grinned. "Is that your idea of a good time, Marsh? Three weeks of
Equity, relieved by a visit from such heavy weights as Ben Halleck and his
sisters? Not any in mine, thank you."

"How can you--how _dare_ you speak of them so!" cried Marcia lightening
upon him. "Such good friends of yours--such good people--" Her voice shook
with indignation and wounded feeling.

Bartley rose and took a turn about the room, pulling down his waistcoat and
contemplating its outward slope with a smile. "Oh, I've got more friends
than I can shake a stick at. And with pleasure at the helm, goodness is
a drug in the market,--if you'll excuse the mixed metaphor. Look here,
Marcia," he added, severely. "If you like the Hallecks, all well and good;
I sha'n't interfere with you; but they bore me. I outgrew Ben Halleck years
ago. He's duller than death. As for the old people, there's no harm in
them,--though _they're_ bores, too,--nor in the old girls; but Olive
Halleck doesn't treat me decently. I suppose that just suits you: I've
noticed that you never like the women that _do_ treat me decently."

"They don't treat _me_ decently!" retorted Marcia.

"Oh, Miss Kingsbury treated you very well that night. She couldn't imagine
your being jealous of her politeness to me."

Marcia's temper fired at his treacherous recurrence to a grievance which he
had once so sacredly and sweetly ignored. "If you wish to take up bygones,
why don't you go back to Hannah Morrison at once? She treated you even
better than Miss Kingsbury."

"I should have been very willing to do that," said Bartley, "but I thought
it might remind you of a disagreeable little episode in your own life, when
you flung me away, and had to go down on your knees to pick me up again."

These thrusts which they dealt each other in their quarrels, however blind
and misdirected, always reached their hearts: it was the wicked will that
hurt, rather than the words. Marcia rose, bleeding inwardly, and her
husband felt the remorse of a man who gets the best of it in such an
encounter.

"Oh, I'm sorry I said that, Marcia! I didn't mean it; indeed I--" She
disdained to heed him, as she swept out of the room, and up the stairs; and
his anger flamed out again.

"I give you fair warning," he called after her, "not to try that trick of
locking the door, or I will smash it in."

Her answer was to turn the key in the door with a click which he could not
fail to hear.

The peace in which they had been living of late was very comfortable to
Bartley; he liked it; he hated to have it broken; he was willing to do what
he could to restore it at once. If he had no better motive than this, he
still had this motive; and he choked down his wrath, and followed Marcia
softly upstairs. He intended to reason with her, and he began, "I say,
Marsh," as he turned the door-knob. But you cannot reason through a
keyhole, and before he knew he found himself saying, "Will you open this?"
in a tone whose quiet was deadly. She did not answer; he heard her stop
in her movements about the room, and wait, as if she expected him to ask
again. He hesitated a moment whether to keep his threat of breaking the
door in; but he turned away and went down stairs, and so into the street.
Once outside, he experienced the sense of release that comes to a man from
the violation of his better impulses; but he did not know what to do or
where to go. He walked rapidly away; but Marcia's eyes and voice seemed to
follow him, and plead with him for his forbearance. But he answered his
conscience, as if it had been some such presence, that he had forborne too
much already, and that now he should not humble himself; that he was right
and should stand upon his right. There was not much comfort in it, and he
had to brace himself again and again with vindictive resolution.



XXIV.


Bartley walked about the streets for a long time, without purpose or
direction, brooding fiercely on his wrongs, and reminding himself how
Marcia had determined to have him, and had indeed flung herself upon his
mercy, with all sorts of good promises; and had then at once taken the
whip-hand, and goaded and tormented him ever since. All the kindness of
their common life counted for nothing in this furious reverie, or rather it
was never once thought of; he cursed himself for a fool that he had ever
asked her to marry him, and for doubly a fool that he had married her when
she had as good as asked him. He was glad, now, that he had taunted her
with that; he only regretted that he had told her he was sorry. He was
presently aware of being so tired that he could scarcely pull one leg after
another; and yet he felt hopelessly wide awake. It was in simple despair of
anything else to do that he climbed the stairs to Ricker's lofty perch
in the Chronicle-Abstract office. Ricker turned about as he entered, and
stared up at him from beneath the green pasteboard visor with which he was
shielding his eyes from the gas; his hair, which was of the harshness and
color of hay, was stiffly poked up and strewn about on his skull, as if it
were some foreign product.

"Hello!" he said. "Going to issue a morning edition of the Events?"

"What makes you think so?"

"Oh, I supposed you evening-paper gents went to bed with the hens. What
has kept you up, esteemed contemporary?" He went on working over some
despatches which lay upon his table.

"Don't you want to come out and have some oysters?" asked Bartley.

"Why this princely hospitality? I'll come with you in half a minute,"
Ricker said, going to the slide that carried up the copy to the
composing-room and thrusting his manuscript into the box.

"Where are you going?" he asked, when they found themselves out in the
soft starlit autumnal air; and Bartley answered with the name of an
oyster-house, obscure, but of singular excellence.

"Yes, that's the best place," Ricker commented. "What I always wonder at in
you is the rapidity with which you Ve taken on the city. You were quite
in the green wood when you came here, and now you know your Boston like a
little man. I suppose it's your newspaper work that's familiarized you with
the place. Well, how do you like your friend Witherby, as far as you've
gone?"

"Oh, we shall get along, I guess," said Bartley. "He still keeps me in the
background, and plays at being editor, but he pays me pretty well."

"Not too well, I hope."

"I should like to see him try it."

"I shouldn't," said Ricker. "He'd expect certain things of you, if he did.
You'll have to look out for Witherby."

"You mean that he's a scamp?"

"No; there isn't a better conscience than Witherby carries in the whole
city. He's perfectly honest. He not only believes that he has a right to
run the Events in his way; but he sincerely believes that he is right in
doing it. There's where he has the advantage of you, if you doubt him. I
don't suppose he ever did a wrong thing in his life; he'd persuade himself
that the thing was right before he did it."

"That's a common phenomenon, isn't it?" sneered Bartley. "Nobody sins."

"You're right, partly. But some of us sinners have our misgivings, and
Witherby never has. You know he offered me your place?"

"No, I didn't," said Bartley, astonished and not pleased.

"I thought he might have told you. He made me inducements; but I was afraid
of him: Witherby is the counting-room incarnate. I talked you into him
for some place or other; but he didn't seem to wake up to the value of my
advice at once. Then I couldn't tell what he was going to offer you."

"Thank you for letting me in for a thing you were afraid of!"

"I didn't believe he would get you under his thumb, as he would me. You've
got more back-bone than I have. I have to keep out of temptation; you have
noticed that I never drink, and I would rather not look upon Witherby when
he is red and giveth his color in the cup. I'm sorry if I've let you in for
anything that you regret. But Witherby's sincerity makes him dangerous,--I
own that."

"I think he has some very good ideas about newspapers," said Bartley,
rather sulkily.

"Oh, very," assented Ricker. "Some of the very best going. He believes
that the press is a great moral engine, and that it ought to be run in the
interest of the engineer."

"And I suppose you believe that it ought to be run in the interest of the
public?"

"Exactly--after the public has paid."

"Well, I don't; and I never did. A newspaper is a private enterprise."

"It's private property, but it isn't a private enterprise, and in its very
nature it can't be. You know I never talk 'journalism' and stuff; it amuses
me to hear the young fellows at it, though I think they might be doing
something worse than magnifying their office; they might be decrying it.
But I've got a few ideas and principles of my own in my back pantaloons
pocket."

"Haul them out," said Bartley.

"I don't know that they're very well formulated," returned Ricker, "and I
don't contend that they're very new. But I consider a newspaper a public
enterprise, with certain distinct duties to the public. It's sacredly bound
not to do anything to deprave or debauch its readers; and it's sacredly
bound not to mislead or betray them, not merely as to questions of morals
and politics, but as to questions of what we may lump as 'advertising.' Has
friend Witherby developed his great ideas of advertisers' rights to you?"
Bartley did not answer, and Ricker went on: "Well, then, you can understand
my position, when I say it's exactly the contrary."

"You ought to be on a religious newspaper, Ricker," said Bartley with a
scornful laugh.

"Thank you, a secular paper is bad enough for me."

"Well, I don't pretend that I make the Events just what I want," said
Bartley. "At present, the most I can do is to indulge in a few cheap dreams
of what I should do, if I had a paper of my own."

"What are your dreams? Haul out, as you say."

"I should make it pay, to begin with; and I should make it pay by making
it such a thorough newspaper that every class of people _must_ have it. I
should cater to the lowest class first, and as long as I was poor I would
have the fullest and best reports of every local accident and crime; that
would take all the rabble. Then, as I could afford it, I'd rise a little,
and give first-class non-partisan reports of local political affairs; that
would fetch the next largest class, the ward politicians of all parties.
I'd lay for the local religious world, after that;--religion comes right
after politics in the popular mind, and it interests the women like murder:
I'd give the minutest religious intelligence, and not only that, but the
religious gossip, and the religious scandal. Then I'd go in for fashion and
society,--that comes next. I'd have the most reliable and thorough-going
financial reports that money could buy. When I'd got my local ground
perfectly covered, I'd begin to ramify. Every fellow that could spell, in
any part of the country, should understand that, if he sent me an account
of a suicide, or an elopement, or a murder, or an accident, he should
be well paid for it; and I'd rise on the same scale through all the
departments. I'd add art criticisms, dramatic and sporting news, and book
reviews, more for the looks of the thing than for anything else; they don't
any of 'em appeal to a large class. I'd get my paper into such a shape
that people of every kind and degree would have to say, no matter what
particular objection was made to it, 'Yes, that's so; but it's the best
_news_paper in the world, _and we can't get along without it.'"_

"And then," said Ricker, "you'd begin to clean up, little by little,--let
up on your murders and scandals, and purge and live cleanly like a
gentleman? The trick's been tried before."

They had arrived at the oyster-house, and were sitting at their table,
waiting for the oysters to be brought to them. Bartley tilted his chair
back. "I don't know about the cleaning up. I should want to keep all my
audience. If I cleaned up, the dirty fellows would go off to some one else;
and the fellows that pretended to be clean would be disappointed."

"Why don't you get Witherby to put your ideas in force?" asked Ricker,
dryly.

Bartley dropped his chair to all fours, and said with a smile, "He belongs
to church."

"Ah! he has his limitations. What a pity! He has the money to establish
this great moral engine of yours, and you haven't. It's a loss to
civilization."

"One thing, I know," said Bartley, with a certain effect of virtue, "nobody
should buy or sell me; and the advertising element shouldn't spread beyond
the advertising page."

"Isn't that rather high ground?" inquired Ricker.

Bartley did not think it worth while to answer. "I don't believe that a
newspaper is obliged to be superior in tone to the community," he said.

"I quite agree with you."

"And if the community is full of vice and crime, the newspaper can't do
better than reflect its condition."

"Ah! there I should distinguish, esteemed contemporary. There are several
tones in every community, and it will keep any newspaper scratching to rise
above the highest. But if it keeps out of the mud at all, it can't help
rising above the lowest. And no community is full of vice and crime any
more than it is full of virtue and good works. Why not let your model
newspaper mirror these?"

"They're not snappy."

"No, that's true."

"You must give the people what they want."

"Are you sure of that?"

"Yes, I am."

"Well, it's a beautiful dream," said Ricker, "nourished on a youth sublime.
Why do not these lofty imaginings visit us later in life? You make me quite
ashamed of my own ideal newspaper. Before you began to talk, I had been
fancying that the vice of our journalism was its intense localism. I have
doubted a good while whether a drunken Irishman who breaks his wife's head,
or a child who falls into a tub of hot water, has really established a
claim on the public interest. Why should I be told by telegraph how three
negroes died on the gallows in North Carolina? Why should an accurate
correspondent inform me of the elopement of a married man with his
maid-servant in East Machias? Why should I sup on all the horrors of a
railroad accident, and have the bleeding fragments hashed up for me at
breakfast? Why should my newspaper give a succession of shocks to my
nervous system, as I pass from column to column, and poultice me between
shocks with the nastiness of a distant or local scandal? You reply, because
I like spice. But I don't. I am sick of spice; and I believe that most of
our readers are."

"Cater to them with milk-toast, then," said Bartley.

Ricker laughed with him, and they fell to upon their oysters.

When they parted, Bartley still found himself wakeful. He knew that he
should not sleep if he went home, and he said to himself that he could not
walk about all night. He turned into a gayly-lighted basement, and asked
for something in the way of a nightcap.

The bar-keeper said there was nothing like a hot-scotch to make you sleep;
and a small man with his hat on, who had been talking with the bar-keeper,
and coming up to the counter occasionally to eat a bit of cracker or a bit
of cheese out of the two bowls full of such fragments that stood at the end
of the counter, said that this was so.

It was very cheerful in the bar-room, with the light glittering on the rows
of decanters behind the bar-keeper, a large, stout, clean, pale man in his
shirt-sleeves, after the manner of his kind; and Bartley made up his mind
to stay there till he was drowsy, and to drink as many hot-scotches as were
necessary to the result. He had his drink put on a little table and sat
down to it easily, stirring it to cool it a little, and feeling its
flattery in his brain from the first sip.

The man who was munching cheese and crackers wore a hat rather large for
him, pulled down over his eyes. He now said that he did not care if he took
a gin-sling, and the bar-keeper promptly set it before him on the counter,
and saluted with "Good evening, Colonel," a large man who came in, carrying
a small dog in his arms. Bartley recognized him as the manager of a variety
combination playing at one of the theatres, and the manager recognized the
little man with the gin-sling as Tommy. He did not return the bar-keeper's
salutation, but he asked, as he sat down at a table, "What do I want for
supper, Charley?"

The bar-keeper said, oracularly, as he leaned forward to wipe his counter
with a napkin, "Fricassee chicken."

"Fricassee devil," returned the manager. "Get me a Welsh rabbit."

The bar-keeper, unperturbed by this rejection, called into the tube behind
him, "One Welsh rabbit."

"I want some cold chicken for my dog," said the manager.

"One cold chicken," repeated the bar-keeper, in his tube.

"White meat," said the manager.

"White meat," repeated the bar-keeper.

"I went into the Parker House one night about midnight, and I saw four
doctors there eating lobster salad, and devilled crab, and washing it down
with champagne; and I made up my mind that the doctors needn't talk to me
any more about what was wholesome. I was going in for what was _good_. And
there aint anything better for supper than Welsh rabbit in _this_ world."

As the manager addressed this philosophy to the company at large, no one
commented upon it, which seemed quite the same to the manager, who hitched
one elbow over the back of his chair, and caressed with the other hand the
dog lying in his lap.

The little man in the large hat continued to walk up and down, leaving his
gin-sling on the counter, and drinking it between his visits to the cracker
and cheese.

"What's that new piece of yours, Colonel?" he asked, after a while. "I aint
seen it yet."

"Legs, principally," sighed the manager. "That's what the public wants. I
give the public what it wants. I don't pretend to be any better than the
public. Nor any worse," he added, stroking his dog.

These ideas struck Bartley in their accordance with his own ideas of
journalism, as he had propounded them to Ricker. He had drunk half of his
hot-scotch.

"That's what I say," assented the little man. "All that a theatre has got
to do is to keep even with the public."

"That's so, Tommy," said the manager of a school of morals, with wisdom
that impressed more and more the manager of a great moral engine.

"The same principle runs through everything," observed Bartley, speaking
for the first time.

The drink had stiffened his tongue somewhat, but it did not incommode his
utterance; it rather gave dignity to it, and his head was singularly clear.
He lifted his empty glass from the table, and, catching the bar-keeper's
eye, said, "Do it again." The man brought it back full.

"It runs through the churches as well as the theatres. As long as the
public wanted hell-fire, the ministers gave them hell-fire. But you
couldn't get hell-fire--not the pure, old-fashioned brimstone article--out
of a popular preacher now, for love or money."

The little man said, "I guess you've got about the size of it there"; and
the manager laughed.

"It's just so with the newspapers, too," said Bartley. "Some newspapers
used to stand out against publishing murders, and personal gossip, and
divorce trials. There ain't a newspaper that pretends to keep anyways up
with the times, now, that don't do it! The public want spice, and they will
have it!"

"Well, sir," said the manager, "that's my way of looking at it. I say, if
the public don't want Shakespeare, give 'em burlesque till they're sick of
it. I believe in what Grant said: 'The quickest way to get rid of a bad law
is to enforce it.'"

"That's so," said the little man, "every time." He added, to the
bar-keeper, that he guessed he would have some brandy and soda, and
Bartley found himself at the bottom of his second tumbler. He ordered it
replenished.

The little man seemed to be getting further away. He said, from the
distance to which he had withdrawn, "You want to go to bed with three
nightcaps on, like an old-clothes man."

Bartley felt like resenting the freedom, but he was anxious to pour his
ideas of journalism into the manager's sympathetic ear, and he began to
talk, with an impression that it behooved him to talk fast. His brain was
still very clear, but his tongue was getting stiffer. The manager now had
his Welsh rabbit before him; but Bartley could not make out how it had got
there, nor when. He was talking fast, and he knew, by the way everybody was
listening, that he was talking well. Sometimes he left his table, glass in
hand, and went and laid down the law to the manager, who smilingly assented
to all he said. Once he heard a low growling at his feet, and, looking
down, he saw the dog with his plate of cold chicken, that had also been
conjured into the room somehow.

"Look out," said the manager, "he'll nip you in the leg."

"Curse the dog! he seems to be on all sides of you," said Bartley. "I can't
stand anywhere."

"Better sit down, then," suggested the manager.

"Good idea," said the little man, who was still walking up and down. It
appeared as if he had not spoken for several hours; his hat was further
over his eyes. Bartley had thought he was gone.

"What business is it of yours?" he demanded, fiercely, moving towards the
little man.

"Come, none of that," said the bar-keeper, steadily.

Bartley looked at him in amazement. "Where's your hat?" he asked.

The others laughed; the bar-keeper smiled.

"Are you a married man?"

"Never mind!" said the bar-keeper, severely.

Bartley turned to the little man: "You married?"

"Not _much_," replied the other. He was now topping off with a
whiskey-straight.

Bartley referred himself to the manager: "You?"

"_Pas si bête_," said the manager, who did his own adapting from the
French.

"Well, you're scholar, and you're gentleman," said Bartley. The indefinite
articles would drop out, in spite of all his efforts to keep them in. "'N I
want ask you what you do--to--ask--you--what--would--you--do," he repeated,
with painful exactness, but he failed to make the rest of the sentence
perfect, and he pronounced it all in a word, "'fyour-wifelockyouout?"

"I'd take a walk," said the manager.

"I'd bu'st the door in," said the little man.

Bartley turned and gazed at him as if the little man were a much more
estimable person than he had supposed. He passed his arm through the little
man's, which the other had just crooked to lift his whiskey to his mouth.
"Look here," said Bartley, "tha's jus' what _I_ told her. I want you to go
home 'th me; I want t' introduce you to my wife."

"All right," answered the little man. "Don't care if I do." He dropped his
tumbler to the floor. "Hang it up, Charley, glass and all. Hang up this
gentleman's nightcaps--my account. Gentleman asks me home to his house,
I'll hang him--I'll get him hung,--well, fix it to suit yourself,--every
time!"

They got themselves out of the door, and the manager said to the
bar-keeper, who came round to gather up the fragments of the broken
tumbler, "Think his wife will be glad to see 'em, Charley?"

"Oh, they'll be taken care of before they reach his house."



XXV.


When they were once out under the stars, Bartley, who still, felt his brain
clear, said that he would not take his friend home at once, but would show
him where he visited when he first came to Boston. The other agreed to
the indulgence of this sentiment, and they set out to find Rumford Street
together.

"You've heard of old man Halleck,--Lestor Neather Interest? Tha's
place,--there's where I stayed. His son's my frien',--damn stuck-up,
supercilious beast he is, too! _I_ do' care f'r him! I'll show you place,
so's't you'll know it when you come to it,--'f I can ever find it."

They walked up and down the street, looking, while Bartley poured his
sorrows into the ear of his friend, who grew less and less responsive, and
at last ceased from his side altogether. Bartley then dimly perceived that
he was himself sitting on a door-step, and that his head was hanging far
down between his knees, as if he had been sleeping in that posture.

"Locked out,--locked out of my own door, and by my own wife!" He shed
tears, and fell asleep again. From time to time he woke, and bewailed
himself to Ricker as a poor boy who had fought his own way; he owned that
he had made mistakes, as who had not? Again he was trying to convince
Squire Gaylord that they ought to issue a daily edition of the Equity Free
Press, and at the same time persuading Mr. Halleck to buy the Events for
him, and let him put it on a paying basis. He shivered, sighed, hiccupped,
and was dozing off again, when Henry Bird knocked him down, and he fell
with a cry, which at last brought to the door the uneasy sleeper, who had
been listening to him within, and trying to realize his presence, catching
his voice in waking intervals, doubting it, drowsing when it ceased, and
then catching it and losing it again.

"Hello, here! What do you want? Hubbard! Is it you? What in the world are
you doing here?"

"Halleck," said Bartley, who was unsteadily straightening himself upon his
feet, "glad to find you at home. Been looking for your house all night.
Want to introduce you to partic-ic-ular friend of mine. Mr. Halleck,
Mr. ----. Curse me if I know your name--"

"Hold on a minute," said Halleck.

He ran into the house for his hat and coat, and came out again, closing the
door softly after him. He found Bartley in the grip of a policeman, whom he
was asking his name, that he might introduce him to his friend Halleck.

"Do you know this man, Mr. Halleck?" asked the policeman.

"Yes,--yes, I know him," said Ben, in a low voice. "Let's get him away
quietly, please. He's all right. It's the first time I ever saw him so.
Will you help me with him up to Johnson's stable? I'll get a carriage there
and take him home."

They had begun walking Bartley along between them; he dozed, and paid no
attention to their talk.

The policeman laughed. "I was just going to run him in, when you came out.
You didn't come a minute too soon."

They got Bartley to the stable, and he slept heavily in one of the chairs
in the office, while the ostlers were putting the horses to the carriage.
The policeman remained at the office-door, looking in at Bartley, and
philosophizing the situation to Halleck. "Your speakin' about its bein' the
first time you ever saw him so made me think 't I rather help take home a
regular habitual drunk to his family, any day, than a case like this. They
always seem to take it so much harder the first time. Boards with his
mother, I presume?"

"He's married," said Halleck? sadly. "He has a house of his own."

"Well!" said the policeman.

Bartley slept all the way to Clover Street, and when the carriage stopped
at his door, they had difficulty in waking him sufficiently to get him out.

"Don't come in, please," said Halleck to the policeman, when this was done.
"The man will carry you back to your beat. Thank you, ever so much!"

"All right, Mr. Halleck. Don't mention it," said the policeman, and leaned
back in the hack with an air of luxury, as it rumbled softly away.

Halleck remained on the pavement with Bartley falling limply against him
in the dim light of the dawn. "What you want? What you doing with me?" he
demanded with sullen stupidity.

"I've got you home, Hubbard. Here we are at your house." He pulled him
across the pavement to the threshold, and put his hand on the bell, but the
door was thrown open before he could ring, and Marcia stood there, with her
face white, and her eyes red with watching and crying.

"Oh, Bartley! oh, Bartley!" she sobbed. "Oh, Mr. Halleck! what is it? Is
he hurt? I did it,--yes, I did it! It's my fault! Oh! will he die? Is he
sick?"

"He isn't very well. He'd better go to bed," said Halleck.

"Yes, yes! I will help you upstairs with him."

"Do' need any help," said Bartley, sulkily. "Go upstairs myself."

He actually did so, with the help of the hand-rail, Marcia running before,
to open the door, and smooth the pillows which her head had not touched,
and Halleck following him to catch him if he should fall. She unlaced his
shoes and got them off, while Halleck removed his coat.

"Oh, Bartley! where do you feel badly, dear? Oh I what shall I do?" she
moaned, as he tumbled himself on the bed, and lapsed into a drunken stupor.

"Better--better come out, Mrs. Hubbard," said Halleck. "Better let him
alone, now. You only make him worse, talking to him."

Quelled by the mystery of his manner, she followed him out and down the
stairs. "Oh, _do_ tell me what it is," she implored, in a low voice, "or
I shall go wild! But tell me, and I can bear it! I can bear anything if I
know what it is!" She came close to him in her entreaty, and fixed her eyes
beseechingly on his, while she caught his hand in both of hers. "Is he--is
he insane?"

"He isn't quite in his right mind, Mrs. Hubbard," Halleck began, softly
releasing himself, and retreating a little from her; but she pursued him,
and put her hand on his arm.

"Oh, then go for the doctor,--go instantly! Don't lose a minute! I shall
not be afraid to stay alone. Or if you think I'd better not, I will go for
the doctor myself."

"No, no," said Halleck, smiling sadly: the case certainly had its ludicrous
side. "He doesn't need a doctor. You mustn't think of calling a doctor.
Indeed you mustn't. He'll come out all right of himself. If you sent for a
doctor, it would make him very angry."

She burst into tears. "Well, I will do what you say," she cried. "It would
never have happened, if it hadn't been for me. I want to tell you what I
did," she went on wildly. "I want to tell--"

"Please don't tell me anything, Mrs. Hubbard! It will all come right--and
very soon. It isn't anything to be alarmed about. He'll be well in a few
hours. I--ah--Good by." He had found his cane, and he made a limp toward
the door, but she swiftly interposed herself.

"Why," she panted, in mixed reproach and terror, "you're not going away?
You're not going to leave me before Bartley is well? He may get worse,--he
may die! You mustn't go, Mr. Halleck!"

"Yes, I must,--I can't stay,--I oughtn't to stay,--it won't do! He won't
get worse, he won't die." The perspiration broke out on Halleck's face,
which he lifted to hers with a distress as great as her own.

She only answered, "I can't let you go; it would kill me. I wonder at your
wanting to go."

There was something ghastly comical in it all, and Halleck stood in fear of
its absurdity hardly less than of its tragedy. He rapidly revolved in his
mind the possibilities of the case. He thought at first that it might be
well to call a doctor, and, having explained the situation to him, pay him
to remain in charge; but he reflected that it would be insulting to ask a
doctor to see a man in Hubbard's condition. He took out his watch, and saw
that it was six o'clock; and he said, desperately, "You can send for me, if
you get anxious--"

"I can't let you go!"

"I must really get my breakfast--"

"The girl will get something for you here! Oh, _don't_ go away!" Her lip
began to quiver again, and her bosom to rise.

He could not bear it. "Mrs. Hubbard, will you believe what I say?"

"Yes," she faltered, reluctantly.

"Well, I tell you that Mr. Hubbard is in no sort of danger; and I know that
it would be extremely offensive to him if I stayed."

"Then you must go," she answered promptly, and opened the door, which she
had closed for fear he might escape. "I will send for a doctor."

"No; _don't_ send for a doctor, don't send for anybody don't speak of
the matter to any one: it would be very mortifying to him. It's merely
a--a--kind of--seizure, that a great many people--men--are subject to; but
he wouldn't like to have it known." He saw that his words were making an
impression upon her; perhaps her innocence was beginning to divine the
truth. "Will you do what I say?"

"Yes," she murmured.

Her head began to droop, and her face to turn away in a dawning shame too
cruel for him to see.

"I--I will come back as soon as I get my breakfast, to make sure that
everything is right."

She let him find his own way out, and Halleck issued upon the street, as
miserable as if the disgrace were his own. It was easy enough for him
to get back into his own room without alarming the family. He ate his
breakfast absently, and then went out while the others were still at table.

"I don't think Ben seems very well," said his mother, anxiously, and she
looked to her husband for the denial he always gave.

"Oh, I guess he's all right. What's the matter with him?"

"It's nothing but his ridiculous, romantic way of taking the world to
heart," Olive interposed. "You may be sure he's troubled about something
that doesn't concern him in the least. It's what comes of the life-long
conscientiousness of his parents. If Ben doesn't turn out a philanthropist
of the deepest dye yet, you'll have me to thank for it. I see more and
more every day that I was providentially born wicked, so as to keep this
besottedly righteous family's head above water."

She feigned an angry impatience with the condition of things; but when her
father went out, she joined her mother in earnest conjectures as to what
Ben had on his mind.

Halleck wandered about till nearly ten o'clock, and then he went to the
little house on Clover Street. The servant-girl answered his ring, and when
he asked for Mrs. Hubbard, she said that Mr. Hubbard wished to see him, and
please would he step upstairs.

He found Bartley seated at the window, with a wet towel round his head, and
his face pale with headache.

"Well, old man," he said, with an assumption of comradery that was nauseous
to Halleck, "you've done the handsome thing by me. I know all about it.
I knew something about it all the time." He held out his hand, without
rising, and Halleck forced himself to touch it. "I appreciate your delicacy
in not telling my wife. Of course you _couldn't_ tell," he said, with
depraved enjoyment of what he conceived of Halleck's embarrassment. "But I
guess she must have smelt a rat. As the fellow says," he added, seeing the
disgust that Halleck could not keep out of his face, "I shall make a clean
breast of it, as soon as she can bear it. She's pretty high-strung. Lying
down, now," he explained. "You see, I went out to get something to make me
sleep, and the first thing I knew I had got too much. Good thing I turned
up on your doorstep; might have been waltzing into the police court about
now. How did you happen to hear me?"

Halleck briefly explained, with an air of abhorrence for the facts.

"Yes, I remember most of it," said Bartley. "Well, I want to thank you,
Halleck. You've saved me from disgrace,--from ruin, for all I know. Whew!
how my head aches!" he said, making an appeal to Halleck's pity, with
closed eyes. "Halleck," he murmured, feebly, "I wish you would do me a
favor."

"Yes? What is it?" asked Halleck, dryly.

"Go round to the Events office and tell old Witherby that I sha'n't be able
to put in an appearance to-day. I'm not up to writing a note, even; and
he'd feel flattered at your coming personally. It would make it all right
for me."

"Of course I will go," said Halleck.

"Thanks," returned Bartley, plaintively, with his eyes closed.



XXVI.


Bartley would willingly have passed this affair over with Marcia, like some
of their quarrels, and allowed a reconciliation to effect itself through
mere lapse of time and daily custom. But there were difficulties in the way
to such an end; his shameful escapade had given the quarrel a character of
its own, which could not be ignored. He must keep his word about making a
clean breast of it to Marcia, whether he liked or not; but she facilitated
his confession by the meek and dependent fashion in which she hovered
about, anxious to do something or anything for him. If, as he suggested to
Halleck, she had divined the truth, she evidently did not hold him wholly
to blame for what had happened, and he was not without a self-righteous
sense of having given her a useful and necessary lesson. He was inclined to
a severity to which his rasped and shaken nerves contributed, when he spoke
to her that night, as they sat together after tea; she had some sewing in
her lap, little mysteries of soft muslin for the baby, which she was edging
with lace, and her head drooped over her work, as if she could not confront
him with her swollen eyes.

"Look here, Marcia," he said, "do you know what was the matter with me this
morning?"

She did not answer in words; her hands quivered a moment; then she caught
up the things out of her lap, and sobbed into them. The sight unmanned
Bartley; he hated to see any one cry,--even his wife, to whose tears he was
accustomed. He dropped down beside her on the sofa, and pulled her head
over on his shoulder.

"It was my fault! it was my fault, Bartley!" she sobbed. "Oh, how can I
ever get over it?"

"Well, don't cry, don't cry! It wasn't altogether your fault," returned
Bartley. "We were both to blame."

"No! I began it. If I hadn't broken my promise about speaking of Hannah
Morrison, it never would have happened." This was so true that Bartley
could not gainsay it. "But I couldn't seem to help it; and you were--you
were--so quick with me; you didn't give me time to think; you--But I was
the one to blame, I was to blame!"

"Oh, well, never mind about it; don't take on so," coaxed Bartley. "It's
all over now, and it can't be helped. And I can promise you," he added,
"that it shall never happen again, no matter what you do," and in making
this promise he felt the glow of virtuous performance. "I think we've both
had a lesson. I suppose," he continued sadly, as one might from impersonal
reflection upon the temptations and depravity of large cities, "that it's
_common_ enough. I dare say it isn't the first time Ben Halleck has taken a
fellow home in a hack." Bartley got so much comfort from the conjecture he
had thrown out for Marcia's advantage, that he felt a sort of self-approval
in the fact with which he followed it up. "And there's this consolation
about it, if there isn't any other: that it wouldn't have happened now, if
it had ever happened before."

Marcia lifted her head and looked into his face: "What--what do you mean,
Bartley?"

"I mean that I never was overcome before in my life by--wine." He
delicately avoided saying whiskey.

"Well?" she demanded.

"Why, don't you see? If I'd had the habit of drinking, I shouldn't have
been affected by it."

"I don't understand," she said, anxiously.

"Why, I knew I shouldn't be able to sleep, I was so mad at you--"

"Oh!"

"And I dropped into the hotel bar-room for a nightcap,--for something to
make me sleep."

"Yes, yes!" she urged eagerly.

"I took what wouldn't have touched a man that was in the habit of it."

"Poor Bartley!"

"And the first thing I knew I had got too much. I was drunk,--wild drunk,"
he said with magnanimous frankness.

She had been listening intensely, exculpating him at every point, and now
his innocence all flashed upon her. "I see! I see!" she cried. "And it was
because you had never tasted it before--"

"Well, I had tasted it once or twice," interrupted Bartley, with heroic
veracity.

"No matter! It was because you had never more than hardly tasted it that a
very little overcame you in an instant. I see!" she repeated, contemplating
him in her ecstasy, as the one habitually sober man in a Boston full of
inebriates. "And now I shall never regret it; I shall never care for it;
I never shall think about it again! Or, yes! I shall always remember
it, because it shows--because it _proves_ that you are always strictly
temperance. It was worth happening for that. I am _glad_ it happened!"

She rose from his side, and took her sewing nearer the lamp, and resumed
her work upon it with shining eyes.

Bartley remained in his place on the sofa, feeling, and perhaps looking,
rather sheepish. He had made a clean breast of it, and the confession
had redounded only too much to his credit. To do him justice, he had not
intended to bring the affair to quite such a triumphant conclusion; and
perhaps something better than his sense of humor was also touched when he
found himself not only exonerated, but transformed into an exemplar of
abstinence.

"Well," he said, "it isn't exactly a thing to be glad of, but it certainly
isn't a thing to worry yourself about. You know the worst of it, and you
know the best of it. It never happened before, and it never shall happen
again; that's all. Don't lament over it, don't accuse yourself; just let
it go, and we'll both see what we can do after this in the way of behaving
better."

He rose from the sofa, and began to walk about the room.

"Does your head still ache?" she asked, fondly. "I _wish_ I could do
something for it!"

"Oh, I shall sleep it off," returned Bartley.

She followed him with her eyes. "Bartley!"

"Well?"

"Do you suppose--do you believe--that Mr. Halleck--that he was ever--"

"No, Marcia, I don't," said Bartley, stopping. "I _know_ he never was. Ben
Halleck is slow; but he's good. I couldn't imagine his being drunk any more
than I could imagine your being so. I'd willingly sacrifice his reputation
to console you," added Bartley, with a comical sense of his own regret that
Halleck was not, for the occasion, an habitual drunkard, "but I cannot tell
a lie." He looked at her with a smile, and broke into a sudden laugh. "No,
my dear, the only person I think of just now as having suffered similarly
with myself is the great and good Andrew Johnson. Did you ever hear of
him?"

"Was he the one they impeached?" she faltered, not knowing what Bartley
would be at, but smiling faintly in sympathy with his mirth.

"He was the one they impeached. He was the one who was overcome by wine on
his inauguration day, because he had never been overcome before. It's a
parallel case!" Bartley got a great deal more enjoyment out of the parallel
case than Marcia. The smile faded from her face.

"Come, come," he coaxed, "be satisfied with Andrew Johnson, and let Halleck
go. Ah, Marcia!" he added, seriously, "Ben Halleck is the kind of man you
ought to have married! Don't you suppose that I know I'm not good enough
for you? I'm pretty good by fits and starts; but he would have been good
right straight along. I should never have had to bring _him_ home in a hack
to you!"

His generous admission had the just effect. "Hush, Bartley! Don't talk so!
You know that you're better for me than the best man in the world, dear,
and even if you were not, I should love you the best. Don't talk, please,
that way, of any one else, or it will make me hate you!"

He liked that; and after all he was not without an obscure pride in his
last night's adventure as a somewhat hazardous but decided assertion of
manly supremacy. It was not a thing to be repeated; but for once in a way
it was not wholly to be regretted, especially as he was so well out of it.

He pulled up a chair in front of her, and began to joke about the things
she had in her lap; and the shameful and sorrowful day ended in the bliss
of a more perfect peace between them than they had known since the troubles
of their married life began. "I tell you," said Bartley to Marcia, "I shall
stick to tivoli after this, religiously."

It was several weeks later that Halleck limped into Atherton's lodgings,
and dropped into one of his friend's easy-chairs. The room had a bachelor
comfort of aspect, and the shaded lamp on the table shed a mellow light on
the green leather-covered furniture, wrinkled and creased, and worn full of
such hospitable hollows as that which welcomed Halleck. Some packages of
law papers were scattered about on the table; but the hour of the night had
come when a lawyer permits himself a novel. Atherton looked up from his as
Halleck entered, and stretched out a hand, which the latter took on his way
to the easy-chair across the table.

"How do you do?" said Atherton, after allowing him to sit for a certain
time in the silence, which expressed better than words the familiarity
that existed between them in spite of the lawyer's six or seven years of
seniority.

Halleck leaned forward and tapped the floor with his stick; then he fell
back again, and laid his cane across the arms of his chair, and drew a
long breath. "Atherton," he said, "if you had found a blackguard of your
acquaintance drunk on your doorstep early one morning, and had taken him
home to his wife, how would you have expected her to treat you the next
time you saw her?"

The lawyer was too much used to the statement, direct and hypothetical, of
all sorts of cases, to be startled at this. He smiled slightly, and said,
"That would depend a good deal upon the lady."

"Oh, but generalize! From what you know of women as Woman, what should you
expect? Shouldn't you expect her to make you pay somehow for your privity
to her disgrace, to revenge her misery upon you? Isn't there a theory that
women forgive injuries, but never ignominies?"

"That's what the novelists teach, and we bachelors get most of our doctrine
about women from them." He closed his novel on the paper-cutter, and,
laying the book upon the table, clasped his hands together at the back of
his head. "We don't go to nature for our impressions; but neither do the
novelists, for that matter. Now and then, however, in the way of business,
I get a glimpse of realities that make me doubt my prophets. Who had this
experience?"

"I did."

"I'm sorry for that," said Atherton.

"Yes," returned Halleck, with whimsical melancholy; "I'm not particularly
adapted for it. But I don't know that it would be a very pleasant
experience for anybody."

He paused drearily, and Atherton said, "And how did she actually treat
you?"

"I hardly know. I hadn't been at the pains to look them up since the
thing happened, and I had been carrying their squalid secret round for a
fortnight, and suffering from it as if it were all my own."

Atherton smiled at the touch of self-characterization.

"When I met her and her husband and her baby to-day,--a family
party,--well, she made me ashamed of the melodramatic compassion I had been
feeling for her. It seemed that I had been going about unnecessarily, not
to say impertinently, haggard with the recollection of her face as I saw it
when she opened the door for her blackguard and me that morning. She looked
as if nothing unusual had happened at our last meeting. I couldn't brace up
all at once: I behaved like a sneak, in view of her serenity."

"Perhaps nothing unusual _had_ happened," suggested Atherton.

"No, that theory isn't tenable," said Halleck. "It was the one fact in the
blackguard's favor that she had evidently never seen him in that state
before, and didn't know what was the matter. She was wild at first; she
wanted to send for a doctor. I think towards the last she began to suspect.
But I don't know how she looked _then_: I couldn't look at her." He stopped
as if still in the presence of the pathetic figure, with its sidelong,
drooping head.

Atherton respected his silence a moment before he again suggested, as
lightly as before, "Perhaps she is magnanimous."

"No," said Halleck, with the effect of having also given that theory
consideration. "She's not magnanimous, poor soul. I fancy she is rather a
narrow-minded person, with strict limitations in regard to people who think
ill--or too well--of her husband."

"Then perhaps," said Atherton, with the air of having exhausted conjecture,
"she's obtuse."

"I have tried, to think that too," replied Halleck, "but I can't manage it.
No, there are only two ways out of it; the fellow has abused her innocence
and made her believe it's a common and venial affair to be brought home in
that state, or else she's playing a part. He's capable of telling her that
neither you nor I, for example, ever go to bed sober. But she isn't obtuse:
I fancy she's only too keen in all the sensibilities that women suffer
through; and I'd rather think that he had deluded her in that way, than
that she was masquerading about it, or she strikes me as an uncommonly
truthful person. I suppose you know whom I'm talking about, Atherton?" he
said, with a sudden look at his friend's face across the table.

"Yes, I know," said the lawyer. "I'm sorry it's come to this already.
Though I suppose you're not altogether surprised."

"No; something of the kind was to be expected," Halleck sighed, and rolled
his cane up and down on the arms of his chair. "I hope we know the worst."

"Perhaps we do. But I recollect a wise remark you made the first time we
talked of these people," said Atherton, replying to the mood rather than
the speech of his friend. "You suggested that we rather liked to grieve
over the pretty girls that other fellows marry, and that we never thought
of the plain ones as suffering."

"Oh, I hadn't any data for my pity in this case, then," replied Halleck.
"I'm willing to allow that a plain woman would suffer under the same
circumstances; and I think I should be capable of pitying her. But I'll
confess that the notion of a pretty woman's sorrow is more intolerable;
there's no use denying a fact so universally recognized by the male
consciousness. I take my share of shame for it. I wonder why it is? Pretty
women always seem to appeal to us as more dependent and childlike. I dare
say they're not."

"Some of them are quite able to take care of themselves," said Atherton.
"I've known striking instances of the kind. How do you know but the object
of your superfluous pity was cheerful because fate had delivered her
husband, bound forever, into her hand, through this little escapade of
his?"

"Isn't that rather a coarse suggestion?" asked Halleck.

"Very likely. I suggest it; I don't assert it. But I fancy that wives
sometimes like a permanent grievance that is always at hand, no matter what
the mere passing occasion of the particular disagreement is. It seems to
me that I have detected obscure appeals to such a weapon in domestic
interviews at which I've assisted in the way of business."

"Don't, Atherton!" cried Halleck.

"Don't how? In this particular case, or in regard to wives generally. We
can't do women a greater injustice than not to account for a vast deal
of human nature in them. You may be sure that things haven't come to the
present pass with those people without blame on both sides."

"Oh, do you defend a man for such beastliness, by that stale old plea of
blame on both sides?" demanded Halleck, indignantly.

"No; but I should like to know what she had said or done to provoke it,
before I excused her altogether."

"You would! Imagine the case reversed."

"It isn't imaginable."

"You think there is a special code of morals for women,--sins and shames
for them that are no sins and shames for us!"

"No, I don't think that! I merely suggest that you don't idealize the
victim in this instance. I dare say she hasn't suffered half as much as you
have. Remember that she's a person of commonplace traditions, and probably
took a simple view of the matter, and let it go as something that could not
be helped."

"No, that would not do, either," said Halleck.

"You're hard to please. Suppose we imagine her proud enough to face you
down on the fact, for his sake; too proud to revenge her disgrace on you--"

"Oh, you come back to your old plea of magnanimity! Atherton, it makes me
sick at heart to think of that poor creature. That look of hers haunts me!
I can't get rid of it!"

Atherton sat considering his friend with a curious smile. "Well, I'm sorry
this has happened to _you_, Halleck."

"Oh, why do you say that to me?" demanded Halleck, impatiently. "Am I a
nervous woman, that I must be kept from unpleasant sights and disagreeable
experiences? If there's anything of the man about me, you insult it! Why
not be a little sorry for _her_?"

"I'm sorry enough for her; but I suspect that, so far, you have been the
principal sufferer. She's simply accepted the fact, and survived it."

"So much the worse, so much the worse!" groaned Halleck. "She'd better have
died!"

"Well, perhaps. I dare say she thinks it will never happen again, and has
dismissed the subject; while you've had it happening ever since, whenever
you've thought of her."

Halleck struck the arms of his chair with his clinched hands. "Confound the
fellow! What business has he to come back into my way, and make me think
about his wife? Oh, very likely it's quite as you say! I dare say she's
stupidly content with him; that she's forgiven it and forgotten all about
it. Probably she's told him how I behaved, and they've laughed me over
together. But does that make it any easier to bear?"

"It ought," said Atherton. "What did the husband do when you met them?"

"Everything but tip me the wink,--everything but say, in so many words,
'You see I've made it all right with her: don't you wish you knew--how?'"
Halleck dropped his head, with a wrathful groan.

"I fancy," said Atherton, thoughtfully, "that, if we really knew how, it
would surprise us. Married life is as much a mystery to us outsiders as the
life to come, almost. The ordinary motives don't seem to count; it's the
realm of unreason. If a man only makes his wife suffer enough, she finds
out that she loves him so much she _must_ forgive him. And then there's a
great deal in their being bound. They can't live together in enmity, and
they must live together. I dare say the offence had merely worn itself out
between them."

"Oh, I dare say," Halleck assented, wearily. "That isn't my idea of
marriage, though."

"It's not mine, either," returned Atherton. "The question is whether it
isn't often the fact in regard to such people's marriages."

"Then they are so many hells," cried Halleck, "where self-respect perishes
with resentment, and the husband and wife are enslaved to each other. They
ought to be broken up!"

"I don't think so," said Atherton, soberly. "The sort of men and women that
marriage enslaves would be vastly more wretched and mischievous if they
were set free. I believe that the hell people make for themselves isn't at
all a bad place for them. It's the best place for them."

"Oh, I know your doctrine," said Halleck, rising. "It's horrible! How a man
with any kindness in his heart can harbor such a cold-blooded philosophy
_I_ don't understand. I wish you joy of it. Good night," he added,
gloomily, taking his hat from the table. "It serves me right for coming to
you with a matter that I ought to have been man enough to keep to myself."

Atherton followed him toward the door. "It won't do you any harm to
consider your perplexity in the light of my philosophy. An unhappy marriage
isn't the only hell, nor the worst."

Halleck turned. "What could be a worse hell than marriage without love?" he
demanded, fiercely.

"Love without marriage," said Atherton.

Halleck looked sharply at his friend. Then he shrugged his shoulders as he
turned again and swung out of the door. "You're too esoteric for me. It's
quite time I was gone."

The way through Clover Street was not the shortest way home; but he climbed
the hill and passed the little house. He wished to rehabilitate in its
pathetic beauty the image which his friend's conjectures had jarred,
distorted, insulted; and he lingered for a moment before the door where
this vision had claimed his pity for anguish that no after serenity could
repudiate. The silence in which the house was wrapped was like another fold
of the mystery which involved him. The night wind rose in a sudden gust,
and made the neighboring lamp flare, and his shadow wavered across the
pavement like the figure of a drunken man. This, and not that other, was
the image which he saw.



XXVII.


"Of course," said Marcia, when she and Bartley recurred to the subject of
her visit to Equity, "I have always felt as if I should like to have you
with me, so as to keep people from talking, and show that it's all right
between you and father. But if you don't wish to go, I can't ask it."

"I understand what you mean, and I should like to gratify you," said
Bartley. "Not that I care a rap what all the people in Equity think. I'll
tell you what I'll do, I'll go down there with you and hang round a day or
two; and then I'll come after you, when your time's up, and stay a day or
two there. I _couldn't_ stand three weeks in Equity."

In the end, he behaved very handsomely. He dressed Flavia out to kill, as
he said, in lace hoods and embroidered long-clothes, for which he tossed
over half the ready-made stock of the great dry-goods stores; and he made
Marcia get herself a new suit throughout, with a bonnet to match, which she
thought she could not afford, but he said he should manage it somehow.
In Equity he spared no pains to deepen the impression of his success in
Boston, and he was affable with everybody. He hailed his friends across
the street, waving his hand to them, and shouting out a jolly greeting.
He visited the hotel office and the stores to meet the loungers there; he
stepped into the printing-office, and congratulated Henry Bird on having
stopped the Free Press and devoted himself to job-work. He said, "Hello,
Marilla! Hello, Hannah!" and he stood a good while beside the latter at her
case, joking and laughing. He had no resentments. He stopped old Morrison
on the street and shook hands with him. "Well, Mr. Morrison, do you find it
as easy to get Hannah's wages advanced nowadays as you used to?"

As for his relations with Squire Gaylord, he flattened public conjecture
out like a pancake, as he told Marcia, by making the old gentleman walk
arm-and-arm with him the whole length of the village street the morning
after his arrival. "And I never saw your honored father look as if he
enjoyed a thing less," added Bartley. "Well, what's the use? He couldn't
help himself." They had arrived on Friday evening, and, after spending
Saturday in this social way, Bartley magnanimously went with Marcia to
church. He was in good spirits, and he shook hands, right and left, as he
came out of church. In the afternoon he had up the best team from the hotel
stable, and took Marcia the Long Drive, which they had taken the day
of their engagement. He could not be contented without pushing the
perambulator out after tea, and making Marcia walk beside it, to let people
see them with the baby.

He went away the next morning on an early train, after a parting which he
made very cheery, and a promise to come down again as soon as he could
manage it. Marcia watched him drive off toward the station in the hotel
barge, and then she went upstairs to their room, where she had been so long
a young girl, and where now their child lay sleeping. The little one seemed
the least part of all the change that had taken place. In this room she
used to sit and think of him; she used to fly up thither when he came
unexpectedly, and order her hair or change a ribbon of her dress, that she
might please him better; at these windows she used to sit and watch, and
long for his coming; from these she saw him go by that day when she thought
she should see him no more, and took heart of her despair to risk the wild
chance that made him hers. There was a deadly, unsympathetic stillness in
the room which seemed to leave to her all the responsibility for what she
had done.

The days began to go by in a sunny, still, midsummer monotony. She pushed
the baby out in its carriage, and saw the summer boarders walking or
driving through the streets; she returned the visits that the neighbors
paid her; indoors she helped her mother about the housework. An image of
her maiden life reinstated itself. At times it seemed almost as if she
had dreamed her marriage. When she looked at her baby in these moods, she
thought she was dreaming yet. A young wife suddenly parted for the first
time from her husband, in whose intense possession she has lost her
individual existence, and devolving upon her old separate personality, must
have strong fancies, strange sensations. Marcia's marriage had been full of
such shocks and storms as might well have left her dazed in their entire
cessation.

"She seems to be pretty well satisfied here," said her father, one evening
when she had gone upstairs with her sleeping baby in her arms.

"She seems to be pretty quiet," her mother noncommittally assented.

"M-yes," snarled the Squire, and he fell into a long revery, while Mrs.
Gaylord went on crocheting the baby a bib, and the smell of the petunia-bed
under the window came in through the mosquito netting. "M-yes," he resumed,
"I guess you're right. I guess it's only quiet. I guess she ain't any more
likely to be satisfied than the rest of us."

"I don't see why she shouldn't be," said Mrs. Gaylord, resenting the
compassion in the Squire's tone with that curious jealousy a wife feels for
her husband's indulgence of their daughter. "She's had her way."

"She's had her way, poor girl,--yes. But I don't know as it satisfies
people to have their way, always."

Doubtless Mrs. Gaylord saw that her husband wished to talk about Marcia,
and must be helped to do so by a little perverseness. "I don't know but
what most of folks would say 't she'd made out pretty well. I guess she's
got a good provider."

"She didn't need any provider," said the Squire haughtily.

"No; but so long as she would have something, it's well enough that she
should have a provider." Mrs. Gaylord felt that this was reasoning, and she
smoothed out so much of the bib as she had crocheted across her knees with
an air of self-content. "You can't have everything in a husband," she
added, "and Marcia ought to know that, by this time."

"I've no doubt she knows it," said the Squire.

"Why, what makes you think she's disappointed any?" Mrs. Gaylord came plump
to the question at last.

"Nothing she ever said," returned her husband promptly. "She'd die, first.
When I was up there I thought she talked about him too much to be feeling
just right about him. It was Bartley this and Bartley that, the whole
while. She was always wanting me to say that I thought she had done right
to marry him. I _did_ sort of say it, at last,--to please her. But I kept
thinking that, if she felt sure of it, she wouldn't want to talk it into me
so. Now, she never mentions him at all, if she can help it. She writes to
him every day, and she hears from him often enough,--postals, mostly; but
she don't talk about Bartley, Bartley!" The Squire stretched his lips back
from his teeth, and inhaled a long breath, as he rubbed his chin.

"You don't suppose anything's happened since you was up there," said Mrs.
Gaylord.

"Nothing but what's happened from the start. _He's_ happened. He keeps
happening right along, I guess."

Mrs. Gaylord found herself upon the point of experiencing a painful emotion
of sympathy, but she saved herself by saying: "Well, Mr. Gaylord, I don't
know as you've got anybody but yourself to thank for it all. You got him
here, in the first _place_." She took one of the kerosene lamps from the
table, and went upstairs, leaving him to follow at his will.

Marcia sometimes went out to the Squire's office in the morning, carrying
her baby with her, and propping her with law-books on a newspaper in the
middle of the floor, while she dusted the shelves, or sat down for one of
the desultory talks in the satisfactory silences which she had with her
father.

He usually found her there when he came up from the post-office, with the
morning mail in the top of his hat: the last evening's Events,--which
Bartley had said must pass for a letter from him when he did not
write,--and a letter or a postal card from him. She read these, and gave
her lather any news or message that Bartley sent; and then she sat down
at his table to answer them. But one morning, after she had been at home
nearly a month, she received a letter for which she postponed Bartley's
postal. "It's from Olive Halleck!" she said, with a glance at the
handwriting on the envelope; and she tore it open, and ran it through.
"Yes, and they'll come here, any time I let them know. They've been at
Niagara, and they've come down the St. Lawrence to Quebec, and they will be
at North Conway the last of next week. Now, father, I want to do something
for them!" she cried, feeling an American daughter's right to dispose of
her father, and all his possessions, for the behoof of her friends at any
time. "I want they should come to the house."

"Well, I guess there won't be any trouble about that, if you think they can
put up with our way of living.' He smiled at her over his spectacles.

"Our way of living! Put up with it! I should hope as much! They're just
the kind of people that will put up with anything, because they've had
everything. And because they're all as sweet and good as they can be. You
don't know them, father, you don't half know them! Now, just get right
away,"--she pushed him out of the chair he had taken at the table,--"and
let me write to Bartley this instant. He's got to come when they're here,
and I'll invite them to come over at once, before they get settled at North
Conway."

He gave his dry chuckle to see her so fired with pleasure, and he enjoyed
the ardor with which she drove him up out of his chair, and dashed off her
letters. This was her old way; he would have liked the prospect of the
Hallecks coming, because it made his girl so happy, if for nothing else.

"Father, I will tell you about Ben Halleck," she said, pounding her letter
to Olive with the thick of her hand to make the envelope stick. "You know
that lameness of his?"

"Yes."

"Well, it came from his being thrown down by another boy when he was at
school. He knew the boy that did it; and the boy must have known that Mr.
Halleck knew it, but he never said a word to show that he was sorry, or did
anything to make up for it He's a man now, and lives there in Boston, and
Ben Halleck often meets him. He says that if the man can stand it he can.
Don't you think that's grand? When I heard that, I made up my mind that
I wanted Flavia to belong to Ben Halleck's church,--or the church he did
belong to; he doesn't belong to any now!"

"He couldn't have got any damages for such a thing anyway," the Squire
said.

Marcia paid no heed to this legal opinion of the case. She took off her
father's hat to put the letters into it, and, replacing it on his head,
"Now don't you forget them, father," she cried.

She gathered up her baby and hurried into the house, where she began her
preparations for her guests.

The elder Miss Hallecks had announced with much love, through Olive, that
they should not be able to come to Equity, and Ben was to bring Olive
alone. Marcia decided that Ben should have the guest-chamber, and Olive
should have her room; she and Bartley could take the little room in the L
while their guests remained.

But when the Hallecks came, it appeared that Ben had engaged quarters for
himself at the hotel, and no expostulation would prevail with him to come
to Squire Gaylord's house.

"We have to humor him in such things, Mrs. Hubbard," Olive explained, to
Marcia's distress. "And most people get on very well without him."

This explanation was of course given in Halleck's presence. His sister
added, behind his back: "Ben has a perfectly morbid dread of giving trouble
in a house. He won't let us do anything to make him comfortable at home,
and the idea that you should attempt it drove him distracted. You mustn't
mind it. I don't believe he'd have come if his bachelor freedom couldn't
have been respected; and we both wanted to come Very much."

The Hallecks arrived in the forenoon, and Bartley was due in the evening.
But during the afternoon Marcia had a telegram saying that he could not
come till two days later, and asking her to postpone the picnic she had
planned. The Hallecks were only going to stay three days, and the suspicion
that Bartley had delayed in order to leave himself as little time as
possible with them rankled in her heart so that she could not keep it to
herself when they met.

"Was that what made you give me such a cool reception?" he asked, with
cynical good-nature. "Well, you're mistaken; I don't suppose I mind the
Hallecks any more than they do me. I'll tell you why I stayed. Some people
dropped down on Witherby, who were a little out of his line,--fashionable
people that he had asked to let him know if they ever came to Boston; and
when they did come and let him know, he didn't know what to do about
it, and he called on me to help him out. I've been almost boarding with
Witherby for the last three days; and I've been barouching round all over
the moral vineyard with his friends: out to Mount Auburn and the Washington
Elm, and Bunker Hill, and Brookline, and the Art Museum, and Lexington;
we've been down the harbor, and we haven't left a monumental stone
unturned. They were going north, and they came down here with me; and I got
them to stop over a day for the picnic."

"You got them to stop over for the picnic? Why, I don't want anybody but
ourselves, Bartley! This spoils everything."

"The Hallecks are not ourselves," said Bartley. "And these are jolly
people; they'll help to make it go off."

"Who are they?" asked Marcia, with provisional self-control.

"Oh, some people that Witherby met in Portland at Willett's, who used to
have the logging-camp out here."

"That Montreal woman!" cried Marcia, with fatal divination.

Bartley laughed. "Yes, Mrs. Macallister and her husband. She's a regular
case. She'll amuse you."

Marcia's passionate eyes blazed. "She shall never come to my picnic in the
world!"

"No?" Bartley looked at her in a certain way. "She shall come to mine,
then. There will be two picnics. The more the merrier."

Marcia gasped, as if she felt the clutch in which her husband had her
tightening on her heart. She said that she could only carry her point
against him at the cost of disgraceful division before the Hallecks, for
which he would not care in the least. She moved her head a little from side
to side, like one that breathes a stifling air. "Oh, let her come," she
said quietly, at last.

"Now you're talking business," said Bartley. "I haven't forgotten the
little snub Mrs. Macallister gave me, and you'll see me pay her off."

Marcia made no answer, but went downstairs to put what face she could upon
the matter to Olive, whom she had left alone in the parlor, while she ran
up with Bartley immediately upon his arrival to demand an explanation of
him. In her wrathful haste she had forgotten to kiss him, and she now
remembered that he had not looked at the baby, which she had all the time
had in her arms.

The picnic was to be in a pretty glen three or four miles north of the
village, where there was shade on a bit of level green, and a spring
bubbling out of a fern-hung bluff: from which you looked down the glen over
a stretch of the river. Marcia had planned that they were to drive thither
in a four-seated carryall, but the addition of Bartley's guests disarranged
this.

"There's only one way," said Mrs. Macallister, who had driven up with her
husband from the hotel to the Squire's house in a buggy. "Mr. Halleck tells
me he doesn't know how to drive, and my husband doesn't know the way. Mr.
Hubbard must get in here with me, and you must take Mr. Macallister in your
party." She looked authoritatively at the others.

"First rate!" cried Bartley, climbing to the seat which Mr. Macallister
left vacant. "We'll lead the way."

Those who followed had difficulty in keeping their buggy in sight.
Sometimes Bartley stopped long enough for them to come up, and then, after
a word or two of gay banter, was off again.

They had taken possession of the picnic grounds, and Mrs. Macallister was
disposing shawls for rugs and drapery, while Bartley, who had got the horse
out, and tethered where he could graze, was pushing the buggy out of the
way by the shafts, when the carryall came up.

"Don't we look quite domestic?" she asked of the arriving company, in her
neat English tone, and her rising English inflection. "You know I like
this," she added, singling Halleck out for her remark, and making it as if
it were brilliant. "I like being out of doors, don't you know. But there's
one thing I don't like: we weren't able to get a drop of champagne at that
ridiculous hotel. They told us they were not allowed to keep 'intoxicating
liquors.' Now I call that jolly stupid, you know. I don't know whatever we
shall do if you haven't brought something."

"I believe this is a famous spring," said Halleck.

"How droll you are! Spring, indeed!" cried Mrs. Macallister. "Is _that_ the
way you let your brother make game of people, Miss Halleck?" She directed a
good deal of her rattle at Olive; she scarcely spoke to Marcia, but she was
nevertheless furtively observant of her. Mr. Macallister had his rattle
too, which, after trying it unsatisfactorily upon Marcia, he plied almost
exclusively for Olive. He made puns; he asked conundrums; he had all the
accomplishments which keep people going in a lively, mirthful, colonial
society; and he had the idea that he must pay attentions and promote
repartee. His wife and he played into each other's hands in their _jeux
d'esprit_; and kept Olive's inquiring Boston mind at work in the vain
endeavor to account for and to place them socially. Bartley hung about Mrs.
Macallister, and was nearly as obedient as her husband. He felt that the
Hallecks disapproved his behavior, and that made him enjoy it; he was
almost rudely negligent of Olive.

The composition of the party left Marcia and Halleck necessarily to each
other, and she accepted this arrangement in a sort of passive seriousness;
but Halleck saw that her thoughts wandered from her talk with him, and that
her eyes were always turning with painful anxiety to Bartley. After their
lunch, which left them with the whole afternoon before them, Marcia said,
in a timid effort to resume her best leadership of the affair, "Bartley,
don't you think they would like to see the view from the Devil's Backbone?"

"Would you like to see the view from the Devil's Backbone?" he asked in
turn of Mrs. Macallister.

"And _what_ is the Devil's Backbone?" she inquired.

"It's a ridge of rocks on the bluff above here," said Bartley, nodding his
head vaguely towards the bank.

"And _how_ do you get to it?" asked Mrs. Macallister, pointing her pretty
chin at him in lifting her head to look.

"Walk."

"Thanks, then; I shall try to be satisfied with me own backbone," said Mrs.
Macallister, who had that freedom in alluding to her anatomy which marks
the superior civilization of Great Britain and its colonial dependencies.

"Carry you," suggested Bartley.

"I dare say you'd be very sure-footed; but I'd quite enough of donkeys in
the hills at home."

Bartley roared with the resolution of a man who will enjoy a joke at his
own expense.

Marcia turned away, and referred her invitation, with a glance, to Olive.

"I don't believe Miss Halleck wants to go," said Mr. Macallister.

"I couldn't," said Olive, regretfully. "I've neither the feet nor the head
for climbing over high rocky places."

Marcia was about to sink down on the grass again, from which she had risen,
in the hopes that her proposition would succeed, when Bartley called out:
"Why don't you show Ben the Devil's Backbone? The view is worth seeing,
Halleck."

"Would you like to go?" asked Marcia, listlessly.

"Yes, I should, very much," said Halleck, scrambling to his feet, "if it
won't tire you too much?"

"Oh, no," said Marcia, gently, and led the way. She kept ahead of him in
the climb, as she easily could, and she answered briefly to all he said.
When they arrived at the top, "There is the view," she said coldly. She
waved her hand toward the valley; she made a sound in her throat as if she
would speak again, but her voice died in one broken sob.

Halleck stood with downcast eyes, and trembled. He durst not look at her,
not for what he should see in her face, but for what she should see in his:
the anguish of intelligence, the helpless pity. He beat the rock at his
feet with the ferule of his stick, and could not lift his head again. When
he did, she stood turned from him and drying her eyes on her handkerchief.
Their looks met, and she trusted her self-betrayal to him without any
attempt at excuse or explanation.

"I will send Hubbard up to help you down," said Halleck.

"Well," she answered, sadly.

He clambered down the side of the bluff, and Bartley started to his feet in
guilty alarm when he saw him approach. "What's the matter?"

"Nothing. But I think you had better help Mrs. Hubbard down the bluff."

"Oh!" cried Mrs. Macallister. "A panic! how interesting!"

Halleck did not respond. He threw himself on the grass, and left her
to change or pursue the subject as she liked. Bartley showed more
_savoir-faire_ when he came back with Marcia, after an absence long enough
to let her remove the traces of her tears.

"Pretty rough on your game foot, Halleck. But Marcia had got it into her
head that it wasn't safe to trust you to help her down, even after you had
helped her up."

"Ben," said Olive, when they were seated in the train the next day, "why
_did_ you send Marcia's husband up there to her?" She had the effect of not
having rested till she could ask him.

"She was crying," he answered.

"What do you suppose could have been the matter?"

"What you do: she was miserable about his coquetting with that woman."

"Yes. I could see that she hated terribly to have her come; and that
she felt put down by her all the time. What kind of person _is_ Mrs.
Macallister?"

"Oh, a fool," replied Halleck. "All flirts are fools."

"I think she's more wicked than foolish."

"Oh, no, flirts are better than they seem,--perhaps because men are better
than flirts think. But they make misery just the same."

"Yes," sighed Olive. "Poor Marcia, poor Marcia! But I suppose that, if it
were not Mrs. Macallister, it would be some one else."

"Given Bartley Hubbard,--yes."

"And given Marcia. Well,--I don't like being mixed up with other people's
unhappiness, Ben. It's dangerous."

"I don't like it either. But you can't very well keep out of people's
unhappiness in this world."

"No," assented Olive, ruefully.

The talk fell, and Halleck attempted to read a newspaper, while Olive
looked out of the window. She presently turned to him. "Did you ever fancy
any resemblance between Mrs. Hubbard and the photograph of that girl we
used to joke about,--your lost love?"

"Yes," said Halleck.

"What's become of it,--the photograph? I can't find it any more; I wanted
to show it to her one day."

"I destroyed it. I burnt it the first evening after I had met Mrs. Hubbard.
It seemed to me that it wasn't right to keep it."

"Why, you don't think it was _her_ photograph!"

"I think it was," said Halleck. He took up his paper again, and read on
till they left the cars.

That evening, when Halleck came to his sister's room to bid her good night,
she threw her arms round his neck, and kissed his plain, common face, in
which she saw a heavenly beauty.

"Ben, dear," she said, "if you don't turn out the happiest man in the
world, I shall say there's no use in being good!"

"Perhaps you'd better say that after all I wasn't good," he suggested, with
a melancholy smile.

"I shall know better," she retorted.

"Why, what's the matter, now?"

"Nothing. I was only thinking. Good night!"

"Good night," said Halleck. "You seem to think my room is better than my
company, good as I am."

"Yes," she said, laughing in that breathless way which means weeping next,
with women. Her eyes glistened.

"Well," said Halleck, limping out of the room, "you're quite good-looking
with your hair down, Olive."

"All girls are," she answered. She leaned out of her doorway to watch
him as he limped down the corridor to his own room. There was something
pathetic, something disappointed and weary in the movement of his figure,
and when she shut her door, and ran back to her mirror, she could not see
the good-looking girl there for her tears.



XXVIII.


"Hello!" said Bartley, one day after the autumn had brought back all the
summer wanderers to the city, "I haven't seen you for a month of Sundays."
He had Ricker by the hand, and he pulled him into a doorway to be a little
out of the rush on the crowded pavement, while they chatted.

"That's because I can't afford to go to the White Mountains, and swell
round at the aristocratic summer resorts like some people," returned
Ricker. "I'm a horny-handed son of toil, myself."

"Pshaw!" said Bartley. "Who isn't? I've been here hard at it, except for
three days at one time and live at another."

"Well, all I can say is that I saw in the Record personals, that
Mr. Hubbard, of the Events, was spending the summer months with his
father-in-law, Judge Gaylord, among the spurs of the White Mountains. I
supposed you wrote it yourself. You're full of ideas about journalism."

"Oh, come! I wouldn't work that joke any more. Look here, Ricker, I'll tell
you what I want. I want you to dine with me."

"Dines people!" said Ricker, in an awestricken aside.

"No,--I mean business! You Ve never seen my kid yet: and you've never seen
my house. I want you to come. We've all got back, and we're in nice running
order. What day are you disengaged?"

"Let me see," said Ricker, thoughtfully. "So many engagements! Wait! I
could squeeze your dinner in some time next month, Hubbard."

"All right. But suppose we say next Sunday. Six is the hour."

"Six? Oh, I can't dine in the middle of the forenoon that way! Make it
later!"

"Well, we'll say one P.M., then. I know your dinner hour. We shall expect
you."

"Better not, till I come." Bartley knew that this was Ricker's way of
accepting, and he said nothing, but he answered his next question with easy
joviality. "How are you making it with old Witherby?"

"Oh, hand over hand! Witherby and I were formed for each other. By, by!"

"No, hold on! Why don't you come to the club any more?"

"We-e-ll! The club isn't what it used to be," said Bartley, confidentially.

"Why, of course! It isn't just the thing for a gentleman moving in the
select circles of Clover Street, as you do; but why not come, sometimes, in
the character of distinguished guest, and encourage your humble friends? I
was talking with a lot of the fellows about you the other night."

"Were they abusing me?"

"They were speaking the truth about you, and I stopped them. I told them
that sort of thing wouldn't do. Why, you're getting fat!"

"You're behind the times, Kicker," said Bartley. "I began to get fat six
months ago. I don't wonder the Chronicle Abstract is running down on your
hands. Come round and try my tivoli on Sunday. That's what gives a man
girth, my boy." He tapped Ricker lightly on his hollow waistcoat, and left
him with a wave of his hand.

Ricker leaned out of the doorway and followed him down the street with a
troubled eye. He had taken stock in Bartley, as the saying is, and his
heart misgave him that he should lose on the investment; he could not have
sold out to any of their friends for twenty cents on the dollar. Nothing
that any one could lay his finger on had happened, and yet there had been
a general loss of confidence in that particular stock. Ricker himself had
lost confidence in it, and when he lightly mentioned that talk at the club,
with a lot of the fellows, he had a serious wish to get at Bartley some
time, and see what it was that was beginning to make people mistrust him.
The fellows who liked him at first and wished him well, and believed in
his talent, had mostly dropped him. Bartley's associates were now the most
raffish set on the press, or the green hands; and something had brought
this to pass in less than two years. Ricker had believed that it was
Witherby; at the club he had contended that it was Bartley's association
with Witherby that made people doubtful of him. As for those ideas that
Bartley had advanced in their discussion of journalism, he had considered
it all mere young man's nonsense that Bartley would outgrow. But now, as he
looked at Bartley's back, he had his misgivings; it struck him as the back
of a degenerate man, and that increasing bulk seemed not to represent an
increase of wholesome substance, but a corky, buoyant tissue, materially
responsive to some sort of moral dry-rot.

Bartley pushed on to the Events office in a blithe humor. Witherby had
recently advanced his salary; he was giving him fifty dollars a week now;
and Bartley had made himself necessary in more ways than one. He was not
only readily serviceable, but since he had volunteered to write those
advertising articles for an advance of pay, he was in possession of
business facts that could be made very uncomfortable to Witherby in the
event of a disagreement. Witherby not only paid him well, but treated him
well; he even suffered Bartley to bully him a little, and let him foresee
the day when he must be recognized as the real editor of the Events.

At home everything went on smoothly. The baby was well and growing fast;
she was beginning to explode airy bubbles on her pretty lips that a fond
superstition might interpret as papa and mamma. She had passed that stage
in which a man regards his child with despair; she had passed out of
slippery and evasive doughiness into a firm tangibility that made it some
pleasure to hold her.

Bartley liked to take her on his lap, to feel the spring of her little
legs, as she tried to rise on her feet; he liked to have her stretch out
her arms to him from her mother's embrace. The innocent tenderness which he
experienced at these moments was satisfactory proof to him that he was a
very good fellow, if not a good man. When he spent an evening at home, with
Flavia in his lap for half an hour after dinner, he felt so domestic that
he seemed to himself to be spending all his evenings at home now. Once or
twice it had happened, when the housemaid was out, that he went to the door
with the baby on his arm, and answered the ring of Olive and Ben Halleck,
or of Olive and one or both of the intermediary sisters.

The Hallecks were the only people at all apt to call in the evening, and
Bartley ran so little chance of meeting any one else, when he opened the
door with Flavia on his arm, that probably he would not have thought it
worth while to put her down, even if he had not rather enjoyed meeting
them in that domestic phase. He had not only long felt how intensely Olive
disliked him, but he had observed that somehow it embarrassed Ben Halleck
to see him in his character of devoted young father. At those times he used
to rally his old friend upon getting married, and laughed at the confusion
to which the joke put him. He said more than once afterwards, that he did
not see what fun Ben Halleck got out of coming there; it must bore even
such a dull fellow as he was to sit a whole evening like that and not
say twenty words. "Perhaps he's livelier when I'm not here, though," he
suggested. "I always did seem to throw a wet blanket on Ben Halleck." He
did not at all begrudge Halleck's having a better time in his absence if he
could.

One night when the bell rung Bartley rose, and saying, "I wonder which
of the tribe it is this time," went to the door. But when he opened it,
instead of hearing the well-known voices, Marcia listened through a
hesitating silence, which ended in a loud laugh from without, and a cry
from her husband of "Well, I swear! Why, you infamous old scoundrel, come
in out of the wet!" There ensued, amidst Bartley's voluble greetings, a
noise of shy shuffling about in the hall, as of a man not perfectly master
of his footing under social pressure, a sound of husky, embarrassed
whispering, a dispute about doffing an overcoat, and question as to the
disposition of a hat, and then Bartley reappeared, driving before him the
lank, long figure of a man who blinked in the flash of gaslight, as Bartley
turned it all up in the chandelier overhead, and rubbed his immense hands
in cruel embarrassment at the beauty of Marcia, set like a jewel in the
pretty comfort of the little parlor.

"Mr. Kinney, Mrs. Hubbard," said Bartley; and having accomplished the
introduction, he hit Kinney a thwack between the shoulders with the flat of
his hand that drove him stumbling across Marcia's footstool into the seat
on the sofa to which she had pointed him. "You old fool, where did you come
from?"

The refined warmth of Bartley's welcome seemed to make Kinney feel at home,
in spite of his trepidations at Marcia's presence. He bobbed his head
forward, and stretched his mouth wide, in one of his vast, silent laughs.
"Better ask where I'm goin' to."

"Well, I'll ask that, if it'll be any accommodation. Where you going?"

"Illinois."

"For a divorce?"

"Try again."

"To get married?"

"Maybe, after I've made my pile." Kinney's eyes wandered about the room,
and took in its evidences of prosperity, with simple, unenvious admiration;
he ended with a furtive glimpse of Marcia, who seemed to be a climax of
good luck, too dazzling for contemplation; he withdrew his glance from her
as if hurt by her splendor, and became serious.

"Well, you're the _last_ man I ever expected to see again," said Bartley,
sitting down with the baby in his lap, and contemplating Kinney with
deliberation. Kinney was dressed in a long frock-coat of cheap diagonals,
black cassimere pantaloons, a blue necktie, and a celluloid collar. He had
evidently had one of his encounters with a cheap clothier, in which the Jew
had triumphed; but he had not yet visited a barber, and his hair and beard
were as shaggy as they were in the logging-camp; his hands and face were
as brown as leather. "But I'm as glad," Bartley added, "as if you had
telegraphed you were coming. Of course, you're going to put up with us." He
had observed Kinney's awe of Marcia, and he added this touch to let
Kinney see that he was master in his house, and lord even of that radiant
presence.

Kinney started in real distress. "Oh, no! I couldn't do it! I've got all my
things round at the Quincy House."

"Trunk or bag?" asked Bartley.

"Well, it's a bag; but--"

"All right. We'll step round and get it together. I generally take a little
stroll out, after dinner," said Bartley, tranquilly.

Kinney was beginning again, when Marcia, who had been stealing some covert
looks at him under her eye lashes, while she put together the sewing she
was at work on, preparatory to going upstairs with the baby, joined Bartley
in his invitation.

"You wont make us the least trouble, Mr. Kinney," she said. "The
guest-chamber is all ready, and we shall be glad to have you stay."

Kinney must have felt the note of sincerity in her words. He hesitated, and
Bartley clinched his tacit assent with a quotation: "'The chief ornament of
a house is the guests who frequent it.' Who says that?"

Kinney's little blue eyes twinkled. "Old Emerson."

"Well, I agree with him. We don't care anything about your company, Kinney;
but we want you for decorative purposes."

Kinney opened his mouth for another noiseless laugh, and said, "Well, fix
it to suit yourselves."

"I'll carry her up for you," said Bartley to Marcia, who was stooping
forward to take the baby from him, "if Mr. Kinney will excuse us a moment."

"All right," said Kinney.

Bartley ventured upon this bold move, because he had found that it was
always best to have things out with Marcia at once, and, if she was going
to take his hospitality to Kinney in bad part, he wanted to get through the
trouble. "That was very nice of you, Marcia," he said, when they were in
their own room. "My invitation rather slipped out, and I didn't know how
you would like it."

"Oh, I'm very glad to have him stay. I never forget about his wanting to
lend you money that time," said Marcia, opening the baby's crib.

"You're a mighty good fellow, Marcia!" cried Bartley, kissing her over the
top of the baby's head as she took it from him. "And I'm not half good
enough for you. You never forget a benefit. Nor an injury either," he
added, with a laugh. "And I'm afraid that I forget one about as easily as
the other."

Marcia's eyes suffused themselves at this touch of self-analysis which,
coming from Bartley, had its sadness; but she said nothing, and he was
eager to escape and get back to their guest. He told her he should go out
with Kinney, and that she was not to sit up, for they might be out late.

In his pride, he took Kinney down to the Events office, and unlocked it,
and lit the gas, so as to show him the editorial rooms; and then he passed
him into one of the theatres, where they saw part of an Offenbach opera;
after that they went to the Parker House, and had a New York stew. Kinney
said he must be off by the Sunday-night train, and Bartley thought it well
to concentrate as many dazzling effects upon him as he could in the single
evening at his disposal. He only regretted that it was not the club night,
for he would have liked to take Kinney round, and show him some of the
fellows.

"But never mind," he said. "I'm going to have one of them dine with us
to-morrow, and you'll see about the best of the lot."

"Well, sir," observed Kinney, when they had got back into Bartley's parlor,
and he was again drinking in its prettiness in the subdued light of the
shaded argand burner, "I hain't seen anything yet that suits me much better
than this."

"It isn't bad," said Bartley. He had got up a plate of crackers and two
bottles of tivoli, and was opening the first. He offered the beaded goblet
to Kinney.

"Thank you," said Kinney. "Not any. I never do."

Bartley quaffed half of it in tolerant content. "I _always_ do. Find it
takes my nerves down at the end of a hard week's work. Well, now, tell me
some thing about yourself. What are you going to do in Illinois?"

"Well, sir, I've got a friend out there that's got a coal mine, and he
thinks he can work me in somehow. I guess he can: I've tried pretty much
everything. Why don't you come out there and start a newspaper? We've got a
town that's bound to grow."

It amused Bartley to hear Kinney bragging already of a town that he had
never seen. He winked a good-natured disdain over the rim of the goblet
which he tilted on his lips. "And give up my chances here?" he said, as he
set the goblet down.

"Well, that's so!" said Kinney, responding to the sense of the wink. "I'll
tell you what, Bartley, I didn't know as you'd speak to me when I rung your
bell to-night. But thinks I to myself, 'Dumn it! look here! He can't more'n
slam the door in your face, anyway. And you've hankered after him so
long,--go and take your chances, you old buzzard!' And so I got your
address at the Events office pretty early this morning; and I went round
all day screwing my courage up, as old Macbeth says,--or Ritchloo, _I_
don't know which it was,--and at last I _did_ get myself so that I toed the
mark like a little man."

Bartley laughed so that he could hardly get the cork out of the second
bottle.

"You see," said Kinney, leaning forward, and taking Bartley's plump, soft
knee between his thumb and forefinger, "I felt awfully about the way we
parted that night. I felt _bad_. I hadn't acted well, just to my own mind,
and it cut me to have you refuse my money; it cut me all the worse because
I saw that you was partly right; I _hadn't_ been quite fair with you. But I
always did admire you, and you know it. Some them little things you used to
get off in the old Free Press--well, I could see 't you was _smart_. And I
liked you; and it kind o' hurt me when I thought you'd been makin' fun o'
me to that woman. Well, I could see 't I was a dumned old fool, afterwards.
And I always wanted to tell you so. And I always did hope that I should be
able to offer you that money again, twice over, and get you to take it just
to show that you didn't bear malice." Bartley looked up, with quickened
interest. "But I can't do it now, sir," added Kinney.

"Why, what's happened?" asked Bartley, in a disappointed tone, pouring out
his second glass from his second bottle.

"Well, sir," said Kinney, with a certain reluctance, "I undertook to
provision the camp on spec, last winter, and--well, you know, I always run
a little on food for the brain,"--Bartley broke into a reminiscent cackle,
and Kinney smiled forlornly,--"and thinks I, 'Dumn it, I'll give 'em the
real thing, every time.' And I got hold of a health-food circular; and I
sent on for a half a dozen barrels of their crackers and half a dozen
of their flour, and a lot of cracked cocoa, and I put the camp on a
health-food basis. I calculated to bring those fellows out in the spring
physically vigorous and mentally enlightened. But my goodness! After the
first bakin' o' that flour and the first round o' them crackers, it was all
up! Fellows got so mad that I suppose if I hadn't gone back to doughnuts,
and sody biscuits, and Japan tea, they'd 'a' burnt the camp down. Of course
I yielded. But it ruined me, Bartley; it bu'st me."

Bartley dropped his arms upon the table, and, hiding his face upon them,
laughed and laughed again.

"Well, sir," said Kinney, with sad satisfaction, "I'm glad to see that you
don't need any money from me." He had been taking another survey of the
parlor and the dining-room beyond. "I don't know as I ever saw anybody much
better fixed. I should say that you was a success; and you deserve it.
You're a smart fellow, Bart, and you're a good fellow. You're a generous
fellow." Kinney's voice shook with emotion.

Bartley, having lifted his wet and flushed face, managed to say: "Oh,
there's nothing mean about _me_, Kinney," as he felt blindly for the beer
bottles, which he shook in succession with an evident surprise at finding
them empty.

"You've acted like a brother to me, Bartley Hubbard," continued Kinney,
"and I sha'n't forget it in a hurry. I guess it would about broke my heart,
if you hadn't taken it just the way you did to-night. I should like to see
the man that didn't use you well, or the woman, either!" said Kinney, with
vague defiance. "Though _they_ don't seem to have done so bad by you,"
he added, in recognition of Marcia's merit. "I should say _that_ was the
biggest part of your luck She's a lady, sir, every inch of her. Mighty
different stripe from that Montreal woman that cut up so that night."

"Oh, Mrs. Macallister wasn't such a scamp, after all," said Bartley, with
magnanimity.

"Well, sir, _you_ can say so. I ain't going to be too strict with a _girl_;
but I like to see a married woman _act_ like a married woman. Now, I don't
think you'd catch Mrs. Hubbard flirting with a young fellow the way that
woman went on with you that night?" Bartley grinned. "Well, sir, you're
getting along and you're happy."

"Perfect clam," said Bartley.

"Such a position as you've got,--such a house, such a wife, _and_ such a
baby! Well," said Kinney, rising, "it's a little too much for _me_."

"Want to go to bed?" asked Bartley.

"Yes, I guess I better turn in," returned Kinney, despairingly.

"Show you the way."

Bartley tripped up stairs with Kinney's bag, which they had left standing
in the hall, while Kinney creaked carefully after him; and so led the way
to the guest-chamber, and turned up the gaslight, which had been left
burning low.

Kinney stood erect, dwarfing the room, and looked round on the pink
chintzing, and soft carpet, and white coverleted bed, and lace-hooded
dressing-mirror, with meek veneration. "Well, I swear!" He said no more,
but sat hopelessly down, and began to pull off his boots.

He was in the same humble mood the next morning, when, having got up
inordinately early, he was found trying to fix his mind on a newspaper by
Bartley, who came down late to the Sunday breakfast, and led his guest into
the dining-room. Marcia, in a bewitching morning-gown, was already there,
having put the daintier touches to the meal herself; and the baby, in a
fresh white dress, was there tied into its arm-chair with a napkin, and
beating on the table with a spoon. Bartley's nonchalance amidst all this
impressed Kinney with a yet more poignant sense of his superiority, and
almost deprived him of the powers of speech. When after breakfast Bartley
took him out to Cambridge on the horse-cars, and showed him the College
buildings, and Memorial Hall, and the Washington Elm, and Mount Auburn,
Kinney fell into such a cowed and broken condition, that something had to
be specially done to put him in repair against Ricker's coming to dinner.
Marcia luckily thought of asking him if he would like to see her kitchen.
In this region Kinney found himself at home, and praised its neat
perfection with professional intelligence. Bartley followed them round with
Flavia on his arm, and put in a jocose word here and there, when he saw
Kinney about to fall a prey to his respect for Marcia, and so kept him
going till Ricker rang. He contrived to give Ricker a hint of the sort of
man he had on his hands, and by their joint effort they had Kinney talking
about himself at dinner before he knew what he was about. He could not help
talking well upon this theme, and he had them so vividly interested, as he
poured out adventure after adventure in his strange career, that Bartley
began to be proud of him.

"Well, sir," said Ricker, when he came to a pause, "you've lived a
romance."

"Yes," replied Kinney, looking at Bartley for his approval, "and I've
always thought that, if I ever got run clean ashore, high and dry, I'd
make a stagger to write it out and do something with it. Do you suppose I
could?"

"I promise to take it for the Sunday edition of the Chronicle Abstract,
whenever you get it ready," said Ricker.

Bartley laid his hand on his friend's arm. "It's bought up, old fellow.
That narrative--'Confessions of an Average American'--belongs to the
Events."

They had their laugh at this, and then Ricker said to Kinney: "But look
here, my friend! What's to prevent our interviewing you on this little
personal history of yours, and using your material any way we like? It
seems to me that you've put your head in the lion's mouth."

"Oh, I'm amongst gentlemen," said Kinney, with an innocent swagger. "I
understand that."

"Well, I don't know about it," said Ricker. "Hubbard, here, is used to all
sorts of hard names; but I've never had that epithet applied to me before."

Kinney doubled himself up over the side of his chair in recognition of
Ricker's joke; and when Bartley rose and asked him if he would come into
the parlor and have a cigar, he said, with a wink, no, he guessed he would
stay with the ladies. He waited with great mystery till the folding-doors
were closed, and Bartley had stopped peeping through the crevice between
them, and then he began to disengage from his watch-chain the golden
nugget, shaped to a rude sphere, which hung there. This done, he asked
if he might put it on the little necklace--a christening gift from Mrs.
Halleck--which the baby had on, to see how it looked. It looked very well,
like an old Roman _bolla_, though neither Kinney nor Marcia knew it. "Guess
we'll let it stay there," he suggested, timidly.

"Mr. Kinney!" cried Marcia, in amaze, "I can't let you!"

"Oh, _do_ now, ma'am!" pleaded the big fellow, simply. "If you knew how
much good it does me, you would. Why, it's been like heaven to me to get
into such a home as this for a day,--it has indeed."

"Like heaven?" said Marcia, turning pale. "Oh, my!"

"Well, I don't mean any harm. What I mean is, I've knocked about the world
so much, and never had any home of my own, that to see folks as happy as
you be makes me happier than I've been since I don't know when. Now, you
let it stay. It was the first piece of gold I picked up in Californy when
I went out there in '50, and it's about the last; I didn't have very good
luck. Well, of course! I know I ain't fit to give it; but I want to do it.
I think Bartley's about the greatest fellow and he's the best fellow this
world can show. That's the way I feel about him. And I want to do it. Sho!
the thing wa'n't no use to me!"

Marcia always gave her maid off all work Sunday afternoon, and she would
not trespass upon her rule because she had guests that day. Except for the
confusion to which Kinney's unexpected gift had put her, she would have
waited for him to join the others before she began to clear away the
dinner; but now she mechanically began, and Kinney, to whom these domestic
occupations were a second nature, joined her in the work, equally
absent-minded in the fervor of his petition.

Bartley suddenly flung open the doors. "My dear, Mr. Ricker says he must
be go--" He discovered Marcia with the dish of potatoes in her hand, and
Kinney in the act of carrying off the platter of turkey. "Look here,
Ricker!"

Kinney came to himself, and, opening his mouth above the platter wide
enough to swallow the remains of the turkey, slapped his leg with the
hand that he released for the purpose, and shouted, "The ruling passion,
Bartley, the ruling passion!"

The men roared; but Marcia, even while she took in the situation, did not
see anything so ridiculous in it as they. She smiled a little in sympathy
with their mirth, and then said, with a look and tone which he had not seen
or heard in her since the day of their picnic at Equity, "Come, see what
Mr. Kinney has given baby, Bartley."

They sat up talking Kinney over after he was gone; but even at ten o'clock
Bartley said he should not go to bed; he felt like writing.



XXIX.


Bartley lived well now. He felt that he could afford it, on fifty dollars a
week; and yet somehow he had always a sheaf of unpaid bills on hand. Rent
was so much, the butcher so much, the grocer so much; these were the great
outlays, and he knew just what they were; but the sum total was always much
larger than he expected. At a pinch, he borrowed; but he did not let Marcia
know of this, for she would have starved herself to pay the debt; what was
worse, she would have wished him to starve with her. He kept the purse, and
he kept the accounts; he was master in his house, and he meant to be so.

The pinch always seemed to come in the matter of clothes, and then Marcia
gave up whatever she wanted, and said she must make the old things do.
Bartley hated this; in his position he must dress well, and, as there was
nothing mean about him, he wished Marcia to dress well to. Just at this
time he had set his heart on her having a certain sacque which they had
noticed in a certain window one day when they were on Washington Street
together. He surprised her a week later by bringing the sacque home to her,
and he surprised himself with a seal-skin cap which he had long coveted: it
was coming winter, now, and for half a dozen days of the season he would
really need the cap. There would be many days when it would be comfortable,
and many others when it would be tolerable, and he looked so handsome in it
that Marcia herself could not quite feel that it was an extravagance. She
asked him how they could afford both of the things at once, but he answered
with easy mystery that he had provided the funds; and she went gayly round
with him to call on the Hallecks that evening and show off her sacque. It
was so stylish and pretty that it won her a compliment from Ben Halleck,
which she noticed because it was the first compliment, or anything like
it, that he had ever paid her. She repeated it to Bartley. "He said that I
looked like a Hungarian princess that he saw in Vienna."

"Well, I suppose it has a hussar kind of look with that fur trimming and
that broad braid. Did anybody say anything about my cap?" asked Bartley
with burlesque eagerness.

"Oh, poor Bartley!" she cried in laughing triumph. "I don't believe any of
them noticed it; and you kept twirling it round in your hands all the time
to make them look."

"Yes, I did my level best," said Bartley.

They had a jolly time about that. Marcia was proud of her sacque; when she
took it off and held it up by the loop in the neck, so as to realize its
prettiness, she said she should make it last three winters at least; and
she leaned over and gave Bartley a sweet kiss of gratitude and affection,
and told him not to try to make up for it by extra work, but to help her
scrimp for it.

"I'd rather do the extra work," he protested. In fact he already had the
extra work done. It was something that he felt he had the right to sell
outside of the Events, and he carried his manuscript to Ricker and offered
it to him for his Sunday edition.

Ricker read the title and ran his eye down the first slip, and then glanced
quickly at Hubbard. "You don't mean it?"

"Yes I do," said Bartley. "Why not?"

"I thought he was going to use the material himself some time."

Bartley laughed. "He use the material! Why, he can't write, any more than a
hen; he can make tracks on paper, but nobody would print 'em, much less
buy 'em. I know him, he's all right. It wouldn't hurt the material for his
purpose, any way; and he'll be tickled to death when he sees it. If he
ever does. Look here, Ricker!" added Bartley, with a touch of anger at
the hesitation in his friend's face, "if you're going to spring any
conscientious scruples on me, I prefer to offer my manuscript elsewhere. I
give you the first chance at it; but it needn't go begging. Do you suppose
I'd do this if I didn't understand the man, and know just how he'd take
it?"

"Why, of course, Hubbard! I beg your pardon. If you say it's all right, I
am bound to be satisfied. What do you want for it?"

"Fifty dollars."

"That's a good deal, isn't it?"

"Yes, it is. But I can't afford to do a dishonorable thing for less money,"
said Bartley, with a wink.

The next Sunday, when Marcia came home from church, she went into the
parlor a moment to speak to Bartley before she ran upstairs to the baby. He
was writing, and she put her left hand on his back while with her right she
held her sacque slung over her shoulder by the loop, and leaned forward
with a wandering eye on the papers that strewed the table. In that attitude
he felt her pause and grow absorbed, and then rigid; her light caress
tightened into a grip. "Why, how base! How shameful! That man shall never
enter my doors again! Why, it's stealing!"

"What's the matter? What are you talking about?" Bartley looked up with a
frown of preparation.

"This!" cried Marcia, snatching up the Chronicle-Abstract, at which she had
been looking. "Haven't you seen it? Here's Mr. Kinney's life all written
out! And when he said that he was going to keep it and write it out
himself. That thief has stolen it!"

"Look out how you talk," said Bartley. "Kinney's an old fool, and he never
could have written it out in the world--"

"That makes no difference. He said that he told the things because he knew
he was among gentlemen. A great gentleman Mr. Ricker is! And I thought he
was so nice!" The tears sprang to her eyes, which flashed again. "I want
you to break off with him. Bartley; I don't want you to have anything to
do with such a _thief_! And I shall be proud to tell everybody that you've
broken off with him _because_ he was a thief. Oh, Bartley--"

"Hold your tongue!" shouted her husband.

"I _won't_ hold my tongue! And if you defend--"

"Don't you say a word against Ricker. It's all right, I tell you. You don't
understand such things. You don't know what you're talking about. I--I--I
wrote the thing myself."

He could face her, but she could not face him. There was a subsidence
in her proud attitude, as if her physical strength had snapped with her
breaking spirit.

"There's no theft about it." Bartley went on. "Kinney would never write it
out, and if he did, I've put the material in better shape for him here than
he could ever have given it. Six weeks from now nobody will remember a word
of it; and he could tell the same things right over again, and they would
be just as good as new." He went on to argue the point.

She seemed not to have listened to him. When he stopped, she said, in a
quiet, passionless voice, "I suppose you wrote it to get money for this
sacque."

"Yes; I did," replied Bartley.

She dropped it on the floor at his feet. "I shall never wear it again," she
said in the same tone, and a little sigh escaped her.

"Use your pleasure about that," said Bartley, sitting down to his writing
again, as she turned and left the room.

She went upstairs and came down immediately, with the gold nugget, which
she had wrenched from the baby's necklace, and laid it on the paper before
him. "Perhaps you would like to spend it for tivoli beer," she suggested.
"Flavia shall not wear it."

"I'll get it fitted on to my watch-chain." Bartley slipped it into his
waistcoat pocket.

The sacque still lay on the floor at his feet; he pulled his chair a little
forward and put his feet on it. He feigned to write awhile longer, and then
he folded up his papers, and went out, leaving Marcia to make her Sunday
dinner alone. When he came home late at night, he found the sacque where
she had dropped it, and with a curse he picked it up and hung it on the
hat-rack in the hall.

He slept in the guest-chamber, and at times during the night the child
cried in Marcia's room and waked him; and then he thought he heard a sound
of sobbing which was not the child's. In the morning, when he came down to
breakfast, Marcia met him with swollen eyes.

"Bartley," she said tremulously, "I wish you would tell me how you felt
justified in writing out Mr. Kinney's life in that way."

"My dear," said Bartley, with perfect amiability, for he had slept off his
anger, and he really felt sorry to see her so unhappy, "I would tell you
almost anything you want on any other subject; but I think we had better
remand that one to the safety of silence, and go upon the general
supposition that I know what I'm about."

"I can't, Bartley!"

"Can't you? Well, that's a pity." He pulled his chair to the
breakfast-table. "It seems to me that girl's imagination always fails her
on Mondays. Can she never give us anything but hash and corn-bread when
she's going to wash? However, the coffee's good. I suppose _you_ made it?"

"Bartley!" persisted Marcia, "I want to believe in everything you do,--I
want to be proud of it--"

"That will be difficult," suggested Bartley, with an air of thoughtful
impartiality, "for the wife of a newspaper man."

"No, no! It needn't be! It mustn't be! If you will only tell me--" She
stopped, as if she feared to repeat her offence.

Bartley leaned back in his chair and looked at her intense face with a
smile. "Tell you that in some way I had Kinney's authority to use his
facts? Well, I should have done that yesterday if you had let me. In the
first place, Kinney's the most helpless ass in the world. He could never
have used his own facts. In the second place, there was hardly anything in
his rigmarole the other day that he hadn't told me down there in the lumber
camp, with full authority to use it in any way I liked; and I don't see how
he could revoke that authority. That's the way I reasoned about it."

"I see,--I see!" said Marcia, with humble eagerness.

"Well, that's all there is about it. What I've done can't hurt Kinney. If
he ever does want to write his old facts out, he'll be glad to take my
report of them, and--spoil it," said Bartley, ending with a laugh.

"And if--if there had been anything wrong about it," said Marcia, anxious
to justify him to herself, "Mr. Ricker would have told you so when you
offered him the article."

"I don't think Mr. Ricker would have ventured on any impertinence with me,"
said Bartley, with grandeur. But he lapsed into his wonted, easy way
of taking everything. "What are you driving at, Marsh? I don't care
particularly for what happened yesterday. We've had rows enough before, and
I dare say we shall have them again. You gave me a bad quarter of an hour,
and you gave yourself"--he looked at her tear-stained eyes--"a bad night,
apparently. That's all there is about it."

"Oh, no, that isn't all! It isn't like the other quarrels we've had. When I
think how I've felt toward you ever since, it _scares_ me. There can't be
anything sacred in our marriage unless we trust each other in everything."

"Well, _I_ haven't done any of the mistrusting," said Bartley, with
humorous lightness. "But isn't sacred rather a strong word to use in regard
to our marriage, anyway?"

"Why--why--what do you mean, Bartley? We were married by a minister."

"Well, yes, by what was left of one," said Bartley. "He couldn't seem
to shake himself together sufficiently to ask for the proof that we had
declared our intention to get married."

Marcia looked mystified. "Don't you remember his saying there was something
else, and my suggesting to him that it was the fee?"

Marcia turned white. "Father said the certificate was all right--"

"Oh, he asked to see it, did he? He is a prudent old gentleman. Well, it is
all right."

"And what difference did it make about our not proving that we had declared
our intention?" asked Marcia, as if only partly reassured.

"No difference to us; and only a difference of sixty dollars fine to him,
if it was ever found out."

"And you let the poor old man run that risk?"

"Well, you see, it couldn't be helped. We hadn't declared our intention,
and the lady seemed very anxious to be married. You needn't be troubled. We
are married, right and tight enough; but I don't know that there's anything
_sacred_ about it."

"No," Marcia wailed out, "its tainted with fraud from the beginning."

"If you like to say so," Bartley assented, putting his napkin into its
ring.

Marcia hid her face in her arms on the table; the baby left off drumming
with its spoon, and began to cry.

Witherby was reading the Sunday edition of the Chronicle-Abstract, when
Bartley got down to the Events office; and he cleared his throat with
a premonitory cough as his assistant swung easily into the room. "Good
morning, Mr. Hubbard," he said. "There is quite an interesting article in
yesterday's Chronicle-Abstract. Have you seen it?"

"Yes," said Bartley. "What article?"

"This Confessions of an Average American." Witherby held out the paper,
where Bartley's article, vividly head-lined and sub-headed, filled half a
page. "What is the reason _we_ cannot have something of this kind?"

"Well, I don't know," Bartley began.

"Have you any idea who wrote this?"

"Oh, yes, I wrote it."

Witherby had the task before him of transmuting an expression of rather low
cunning into one of wounded confidence, mingled with high-minded surprise.
"I thought it had your ear-marks, Mr. Hubbard: but I preferred not to
believe it till I heard the fact from your own lips. I supposed that our
contract covered such contributions as this."

"I wrote it out of time, and on Sunday night. You pay me by the week, and
all that I do throughout the week belongs to you. The next day after that
Sunday I did a full day's work on the Events. I don't see what you have to
complain of. You told me when I began that you would not expect more than a
certain amount of work from me. Have I ever done less?"

"No, but--"

"Haven't I always done more?"

"Yes, I have never complained of the amount of work. But upon this theory
of yours, what you did in your summer vacation would not belong to the
Events, or what you did on legal holidays."

"I never have any summer vacation or holidays, legal or illegal. Even when
I was down at Equity last summer I sent you something for the paper every
day."

This was true, and Witherby could not gainsay it. "Very well, sir. If this
is to be your interpretation of our understanding for the future, I shall
wish to revise our contract," he said pompously.

"You can tear it up if you like," returned Bartley. "I dare say Ricker
would jump at a little study of the true inwardness of counting-room
journalism. Unless you insist upon having it for the Events." Bartley
gave a chuckle of enjoyment as he sat down at his desk; Witherby rose and
stalked away.

He returned in half an hour and said, with an air of frank concession,
touched with personal grief: "Mr. Hubbard, I can see how, from your point
of view, you were perfectly justifiable in selling your article to the
Chronicle-Abstract. My point of view is different, but I shall not insist
upon it; and I wish to withdraw--and--and apologize for--any hasty
expressions I may have used."

"All right," said Bartley, with a wicked grin. He had triumphed; but his
triumph was one to leave some men with an uneasy feeling, and there was not
altogether a pleasant taste in Bartley's mouth. After that his position in
the Events office was whatever he chose to make it, but he did not abuse
his ascendency, and he even made a point of increased deference towards
Witherby. Many courtesies passed between them; each took some trouble to
show the other that he had no ill feeling.

Three or four weeks later Bartley received a letter with an Illinois
postmark which gave him a disagreeable sensation, at first, for he knew it
must be from Kinney. But the letter was so amusingly characteristic,
so helplessly ill-spelled and ill-constructed, that he could not help
laughing. Kinney gave an account of his travels to the mining town, and of
his present situation and future prospects; he was full of affectionate
messages and inquiries for Bartley's family, and he said he should never
forget that Sunday he had passed with them. In a postscript he added: "They
copied that String of lies into our paper, here, out of the Chron.-Ab. It
was pretty well done, but if your friend Mr. Ricker done it, I'me not goen
to Insult him soon again by calling him a gentleman."

This laconic reference to the matter in a postscript was delicious to
Bartley; he seemed to hear Kinney saying the words, and imagined his air of
ineffective sarcasm. He carried the letter about with him, and the first
time he saw Ricker he showed it to him. Ricker read it without appearing
greatly diverted; when he came to the postscript he flushed, and demanded,
"What have you done about it?"

"Oh, I haven't done anything. It wasn't necessary. You see, now, what
Kinney could have done with his facts if we had left them to him. It would
have been a wicked waste of material I thought the sight of some of his
literature would help you wash up your uncleanly scruples on that point."

"How long have you had this letter?" pursued Ricker.

"_I_ don't know. A week or ten days."

Ricker folded it up and returned it to him. "Mr. Hubbard," he said, "the
next time we meet, will you do me the favor to cut my acquaintance?"

Bartley stared at him; he thought he must be joking. "Why, Ricker, what's
the matter? I didn't suppose you'd care anything about old Kinney. I
thought it would amuse you. Why, confound it! I'd just as soon write out
and tell him that I did the thing." He began to be angry. "But I can cut
your acquaintance fast enough, or any man's, if you're really on your ear!"

"I'm on my ear," said Ricker. He left Bartley standing where they had met.

It was peculiarly unfortunate, for Bartley had occasion within that week
to ask Ricker's advice, and he was debarred from doing so by this absurd
displeasure. Since their recent perfect understanding, Witherby had
slighted no opportunity to cement their friendship, and to attach Bartley
more and more firmly to the Events. He now offered him some of the Events
stock on extremely advantageous terms, with the avowed purpose of attaching
him to the paper. There seemed nothing covert in this, and Bartley had
never heard any doubts of the prosperity of the Events, but he would have
especially liked to have Ricker's mind upon this offer of stock. Witherby
had urged him not to pay for the whole outright, but to accept a somewhat
lower salary, and trust to his dividends to make up the difference. The
shares had paid fifteen per cent the year before, and Bartley could judge
for himself of the present chances from that showing. Witherby advised him
to borrow only fifteen hundred dollars on the three thousand of stock which
he offered him, and to pay up the balance in three years by dropping five
hundred a year from his salary. It was certainly a flattering proposal;
and under his breath, where Bartley still did most of his blaspheming, he
cursed Ricker for an old fool; and resolved to close with Witherby on his
own responsibility. After he had done so he told Marcia of the step he had
taken.

Since their last quarrel there had been an alienation in her behavior
toward him, different from any former resentment. She was submissive and
quiescent; she looked carefully after his comfort, and was perfect in
her housekeeping; but she held aloof from him somehow, and left him to a
solitude in her presence in which he fancied, if he did not divine, her
contempt. But in this matter of common interest, something of their
community of feeling revived; they met on a lower level, but they met, for
the moment, and Marcia joined eagerly in the discussion of ways and means.

The notion of dropping five hundred from his salary delighted her, because
they must now cut down their expenses as much; and she had long grieved
over their expenses without being able to make Bartley agree to their
reduction. She went upstairs at once and gave the little nurse-maid a
week's warning; she told the maid of all work that she must take three
dollars a week hereafter instead of four, or else find another place; she
mentally forewent new spring dresses for herself and the baby, and arranged
to do herself all of the wash she had been putting out; she put a note in
the mouth of the can at the back door, telling the milkman to leave only
two quarts in future; and she came radiantly back to tell Bartley that she
had saved half of the lost five hundred a year already. But her countenance
fell. "Why, where are you to get the other fifteen hundred dollars,
Bartley?"

"Oh, I Ve thought of that," said Bartley, laughing at her swift
alternations of triumph and despair. "You trust to me for that."

"You're not--not going to ask father for it?" she faltered.

"Not very much," said Bartley, as he took his hat to go out.

He meant to make a raise out of Ben Halleck, as he phrased it to himself.
He knew that Halleck had plenty of money; he could make the stock itself
over to him as security; he did not see why Halleck should hesitate. But
when he entered Halleck's room, having asked Cyrus to show him directly
there, Halleck gave a start which seemed ominous to Bartley. He had
scarcely the heart to open his business, and Halleck listened with changing
color, and something only too like the embarrassment of a man who intends a
refusal. He would not look Bartley in the face, and when Bartley had made
an end he sat for a time without speaking. At last he said with a quick
sigh, as if at the close of an internal conflict, "I will lend you the
money!"

Bartley's heart gave a bound, and he broke out into an immense laugh of
relief, and clapped Halleck on the shoulder. "You looked deucedly as it'
you _wouldn't_, old man! By George, you had on such a dismal, hang-dog
expression that I didn't know but _you'd_ come to borrow money of _me_, and
I'd made up my mind not to let you have it! But I'm everlastingly obliged
to you, Halleck, and I promise you that you won't regret it."

"I shall have to speak to my father about this," said Halleck, responding
coldly to Bartley's robust pressure of his hand.

"Of course,--of course."

"How soon shall you want the money?"

"Well, the sooner the better, now. Bring the check round--can't
you?--to-morrow night,--and take dinner with us, you and Olive; and we'll
celebrate a little. I know it will please Marcia when she finds out who my
hard-hearted creditor is!"

"Well," assented Halleck with a smile so ghastly that Bartley noticed it
even in his joy.

"Curse me," he said to himself, "if ever I saw a man so ashamed of doing a
good action!"



XXX.


The Presidential canvas of the summer--which, followed upon these events in
Bartley's career was not very active. Sometimes, in fact, it languished so
much that people almost forgot it, and a good field was afforded the Events
for the practice of independent journalism. To hold a course of strict
impartiality, and yet come out on the winning side was a theory of
independent journalism which Bartley illustrated with cynical enjoyment. He
developed into something rather artistic the gift which he had always shown
in his newspaper work for ironical persiflage. Witherby was not a man to
feel this burlesque himself; but when it was pointed out to him by others,
he came to Bartley in some alarm from its effect upon the fortunes of the
paper. "We can't afford, Mr. Hubbard," he said, with virtuous trepidation,
"we can't _afford_ to make fun of our friends!"

Bartley laughed at Witherby's anxiety. "They're no more our friends than
the other fellows are. We are independent journalists; and this way of
treating the thing leaves us perfectly free hereafter to claim, just as we
choose, that we were in fun or in earnest on any particular question if
we're ever attacked. See?"

"I see," said Witherby, with not wholly subdued misgiving. But after due
time for conviction no man enjoyed Bartley's irony more than Witherby when
once he had mastered an instance of it. Sometimes it happened that Bartley
found him chuckling over a perfectly serious paragraph, but he did not mind
that; he enjoyed Witherby's mistake even more than his appreciation.

In these days Bartley was in almost uninterrupted good humor, as he had
always expected to be when he became fairly prosperous. He was at no time
an unamiable fellow, as he saw it; he had his sulks, he had his moments of
anger; but generally he felt good, and he had always believed, and he had
promised Marcia, that when he got squarely on his legs he should feel good
perpetually. This sensation he now agreeably realized; and he was also now
in that position in which he had proposed to himself some little moral
reforms. He was not much in the habit of taking stock; but no man wholly
escapes the contingencies in which he is confronted with himself, and sees
certain habits, traits, tendencies, which he would like to change for the
sake of his peace of mind hereafter. To some souls these contingencies are
full of anguish, of remorse for the past, of despair; but Bartley had never
yet seen the time when he did not feel himself perfectly able to turn over
a new leaf and blot the old one. There were not many things in his life
which he really cared to have very different; but there were two or three
shady little corners which he always intended to clean up. He had meant
some time or other to have a religious belief of some sort, he did not much
care what; since Marcia had taken to the Hallecks' church, he did not see
why he should not go with her, though he had never yet done so. He was not
quite sure whether he was always as candid with her as he might be, or as
kind; though he maintained against this question that in all their quarrels
it was six of one and half a dozen of the other. He had never been tipsy
but once in his life, and he considered that he had repented and atoned for
that enough, especially as nothing had ever come of it; but sometimes he
thought he might be over-doing the beer; yes, he thought he must cut down
on the tivoli; he was getting ridiculously fat. If ever he met Kinney again
he should tell him that it was he and not Ricker who had appropriated his
facts and he intended to make it up with Ricker somehow.

He had not found just the opportunity yet; but in the mean time he did not
mind telling the real cause of their alienation to good fellows who
could enjoy a joke. He had his following, though so many of his brother
journalists had cooled toward him, and those of his following considered
him as smart as chain-lightning and bound to rise. These young men and not
very wise elders roared over Bartley's frank declaration of the situation
Between himself and Ricker, and they contended that, if Ricker had taken
the article for the Chronicle-Abstract, he ought to take the consequences.
Bartley told them that, of course, he should explain the facts to Kinney;
but that he meant to let Ricker enjoy his virtuous indignation awhile.
Once, after a confidence of this kind at the club, where Ricker had refused
to speak to him, he came away with a curious sense of moral decay. It did
not pain him a great deal, but it certainly surprised him that now, with
all these prosperous conditions, so favorable for cleaning up, he had so
little disposition to clean up. He found himself quite willing to let
the affair with Ricker go, and he suspected that he had been needlessly
virtuous in his intentions concerning church-going and beer. As to Marcia,
it appeared to him that he could not treat a woman of her disposition
otherwise than as he did. At any rate, if he had not done everything he
could to make her happy, she seemed to be getting along well enough, and
was probably quite as happy as she deserved to be. They were getting on
very quietly now; there had been no violent outbreak between them since the
trouble about Kinney, and then she had practically confessed herself in
the wrong, as Bartley looked at it. She had appeared contented with his
explanation; there was what might be called a perfect business amity
between them. If her life with him was no longer an expression of that
intense devotion which she used to show him, it was more like what married
life generally comes to, and he accepted her tractability and what seemed
her common-sense view of their relations as greatly preferable. With his
growth in flesh, Bartley liked peace more and more.

Marcia had consented to go down to Equity alone, that summer, for he had
convinced her that during a heated political contest it would not do for
him to be away from the paper. He promised to go down for her when she
wished to come home; and it was easily arranged for her to travel as far as
the Junction under Halleck's escort, when he went to join his sisters in
the White Mountains. Bartley missed her and the baby at first. But he
soon began to adjust himself with resignation to his solitude. They had
determined to keep their maid over this summer, for they had so much
trouble in replacing her the last time after their return; and Bartley said
he should live very economically. It was quiet, and the woman kept the
house cool and clean; she was a good cook, and when Bartley brought a man
home to dinner she took an interest in serving it well. Bartley let her
order the things from the grocer and butcher, for she knew what they were
used to getting, and he had heard so much talk from Marcia about bills
since he bought that Events stock that he was sick of the prices of things.
There was no extravagance, and vet he seemed to live very much better after
Marcia went. There is no doubt but he lived very much more at his ease. One
little restriction after another fell away from him; he went and came with
absolute freedom, not only without having to account for his movements, but
without having a pang for not doing so. He had the sensation of stretching
himself after a cramping posture; and he wrote Marcia the cheerfulest
letters, charging her not to cut short her visit from anxiety on his
account. He said that he was working hard, but hard work evidently agreed
with him, for he was never better in his life. In this high content he
maintained a feeling of loyalty by going to the Hallecks, where Mrs.
Halleck often had him to tea in pity of his loneliness. They were dull
company, certainly; but Marcia liked them, and the cooking was always good.
Other evenings he went to the theatres, where there were amusing variety
bills; and sometimes he passed the night at Nantasket, or took a run for
a day to Newport; he always reported these excursions to Marcia, with
expressions of regret that Equity was too far away to run down to for a
day.

Marcia's letters were longer and more regular than his; but he could have
forgiven some want of constancy for the sake of a less searching anxiety on
her part. She was anxious not only for his welfare, which was natural and
proper, but she was anxious about the housekeeping and the expenses, things
Bartley could not afford to let trouble him, though he did what he could in
a general way to quiet her mind. She wrote fully of the visit which Olive
Halleck had paid her, but said that they had not gone about much, for Ben
Halleck had only been able to come for a day. She was very well, and so was
Flavia.

Bartley realized Flavia's existence with an effort, and for the rest this
letter bored him. What could he care about Olive Halleck's coming, or Ben
Halleck's staying away? All that he asked of Ben Halleck was a little
extension of time when his interest fell due. The whole thing was
disagreeable; and he resented what he considered Marcia's endeavor to clap
the domestic harness on him again. His thoughts wandered to conditions, to
contingencies, of which a man does not permit himself even to think without
a degree of moral disintegration. In these ill-advised reveries he mused
upon his life as it might have been if he had never met her, or if they had
never met after her dismissal of him. As he recalled the facts, he was at
that time in an angry and embittered mood, but he was in a mood of entire
acquiescence; and the reconciliation had been of her own seeking. He could
not blame her for it; she was very much in love with him, and he had been
fond of her. In fact, he was still very fond of her; when he thought of
little ways of hers, it filled him with tenderness. He did justice to her
fine qualities, too: her generosity, her truthfulness, her entire loyalty
to his best interests; he smiled to realize that he himself preferred his
second-best interests, and in her absence he remembered that her virtues
were tedious, and even painful at times. He had his doubts whether there
was sufficient compensation in them. He sometimes questioned whether he
had not made a great mistake to get married; he expected now to stick it
through; but this doubt occurred to him. A moment came in which he asked
himself, What if he had never come back to Marcia that night when she
locked him out of her room? Might it not have been better for both of them?
She would soon have reconciled herself to the irreparable; he even thought
of her happy in a second marriage; and the thought did not enrage him; he
generously wished Marcia well. He wished--he hardly knew what he wished. He
wished nothing at all but to have his wife and child back again as soon as
possible; and he put aside with a laugh the fancies which really found
no such distinct formulation as I have given them; which were mere vague
impulses, arrested mental tendencies, scraps of undirected revery. Their
recurrence had nothing to do with what he felt to be his sane and waking
state. But they recurred, and he even amused himself in turning them over.



XXXI.


One morning in September, not long before Marcia returned, Bartley found
Witherby at the office waiting for him. Witherby wore a pensive face, which
had the effect of being studied. "Good morning, Mr. Hubbard," he said, and
when Bartley answered, "Good morning," cheerfully ignoring his mood, he
added, "What is this I hear, Mr. Hubbard, about a personal misunderstanding
between you and Mr. Ricker?"

"I'm sure I don't know," said Bartley; "but I suppose that if you have
heard anything _you_ know."

"I have heard," proceeded Witherby, a little dashed by Bartley's coolness,
"that Mr. Ricker accuses you of having used material in that article you
sold him which had been intrusted to you under the seal of confidence, and
that you had left it to be inferred by the party concerned--that Mr. Ricker
had written the article himself."

"All right," said Bartley.

"But, Mr. Hubbard," said Witherby, struggling to rise into virtuous
supremacy, "what am I to think of such a report?"

"I can't say; unless you should think that it wasn't your affair. That
would be the easiest thing."

"But I _can't_ think that, Mr. Hubbard! Such a report reflects through you
upon the Events; it reflects upon _me_!" Bartley laughed. "I can't approve
of such a thing. If you admit the report, it appears to me that you
have--a--done a--a--wrong action, Mr. Hubbard."

Bartley turned upon him with a curious look; at the same time he felt a
pang, and there was a touch of real anguish in the sarcasm of his demand,
"Have I fallen so low as to be rebuked by _you_?"

"I--I don't know what you mean by such an expression as that, Mr. Hubbard,"
said Witherby. "I don't know what I've done to forfeit your esteem,--to
justify you in using such language to me."

"I don't suppose you really do," said Bartley. "Go on."

"I have nothing more to say, Mr. Hubbard, except--except to add that this
has given me a great blow,--a _great_ blow. I had begun to have my doubts
before as to whether we were quite adapted to each other, and this
has--increased them. I pass no judgment upon what you have done, but I
will say that it has made me anxious and--a--unrestful. It has made me ask
myself whether upon the whole we should not be happier apart. I don't say
that we should; but I only feel that nine out of ten business men would
consider you, in the position you occupy on the Events,--a--a--dangerous
person."

Bartley got up from his desk, and walked toward Witherby, with his hands in
his pockets; he halted a few paces from him, and looked down on him with a
sinister smile. "I don't think they'd consider you a dangerous person in
any position."

"May be not, may be not," said Witherby, striving to be easy and dignified.
In the effort he took up an open paper from the desk before him, and,
lifting it between Bartley and himself, feigned to be reading it.

Bartley struck it out of his trembling hands. "You impudent old scoundrel!
Do you pretend to be reading when I speak to you? For half a cent--"

Witherby, slipping and sliding in his swivel chair, contrived to get to his
feet "No violence, Mr. Hubbard, no violence _here_!"

"Violence!" laughed Bartley. "I should have to _touch_ you! Come! Don't be
afraid! But don't you put on airs of any sort! I understand your game.
You want, for some reason, to get rid of me, and you have seized the
opportunity with a sharpness that does credit to your cunning. I don't
condescend to deny this report,"--speaking in this lofty strain, Bartley
had a momentary sensation of its being a despicable slander,--"but I see
that as far as you are concerned it answers all the purposes of truth. You
think that with the chance of having this thing exploited against me I
won't expose your nefarious practices, and you can get rid of me more
safely now than ever you could again. Well, you're right. I dare say you
heard of this report a good while ago, and you've waited till you could
fill my place without inconvenience to yourself. So I can go at once. Draw
your check for all you owe me, and pay me back the money I put into your
stock, and I'll clear out at once." He went about putting together a few
personal effects on his desk.

"I must protest against any allusion to nefarious practices, Mr. Hubbard,"
said Witherby, "and I wish you to understand that I part from you without
the slightest ill-feeling. I shall always have a high regard for your
ability, and--and--your social qualities." While he made these expressions
he hastened to write two checks.

Bartley, who had paid no attention to what Witherby was saying, came up and
took the checks. "This is all right," he said of one. But looking at the
other, he added, "Fifteen hundred dollars? Where is the dividend?"

"That is not due till the end of the month," said Witherby. "If you
withdraw your money now, you lose it."

Bartley looked at the face to which Witherby did his best to give a high
judicial expression. "You old thief!" he said good-humoredly, almost
affectionately. "I _have_ a mind to tweak your nose!" But he went out of
the room without saying or doing anything more. He wondered a little at his
own amiability; but with the decay of whatever was right-principled in him,
he was aware of growing more and more incapable of indignation. Now, his
flash of rage over, he was not at all discontented. With these checks in
his pocket, with his youth, his health, and his practised hand, he could
have faced the world, with a light heart, if he had not also had to face
his wife. But when he thought of the inconvenience of explaining to her, of
pacifying her anxiety, of clearing up her doubts on a thousand points, and
of getting her simply to eat or sleep till he found something else to do,
it dismayed him. "Good Lord!" he said to himself, "I wish I was dead--or
some one." That conclusion made him smile again.

He decided not to write to Marcia of the change in his affairs, but to take
the chance of finding something better before she returned. There was very
little time for him to turn round, and he was still without a place or any
prospect when she came home. It had sufficed with his acquaintance when he
said that he had left the Events because he could not get on with Witherby;
but he was very much astonished when it seemed to suffice with her.

"Oh, well," she said, "I am glad of it. You will do better by yourself; and
I know you can earn just as much by writing on the different papers."

Bartley knew better than this, but he said, "Yes, I shall not be in a hurry
to take another engagement just yet. But, Marsh," he added, "I was afraid
you would blame me,--think I had been reckless, or at fault--"

"No," she answered after a little pause, "I shall not do that any more. I
have been thinking all these things over, while I was away from you, and
I'm going to do differently, after this. I shall believe that you've acted
for the best,--that you've not meant to do wrong in anything,--and I shall
never question you or doubt you any more."

"Isn't that giving me rather too _much_ rope?" asked Bartley, with
lightness that masked a vague alarm lest the old times of exaction should
be coming back with the old times of devotion.

"No; I see where my mistake has always been. I've always asked too much,
and expected too much, even when I didn't ask it. Now, I shall be satisfied
with what you don't do, as well as what you do."

"I shall try to live up to my privileges," said Bartley, with a sigh of
relief. He gave her a kiss, and then he unclasped Kinney's nugget from his
watch-chain, and fastened it on the baby's necklace, which lay in a box
Marcia had just taken from her trunk. She did not speak; but Bartley felt
better to have the thing off him; Marcia's gentleness, the tinge of sadness
in her tone, made him long to confess himself wrong in the whole matter,
and justly punished by Ricker's contempt and Witherby's dismissal. But he
did not believe that he could trust her to forgive him, and he felt himself
unable to go through all that without the certainty of her forgiveness.

As she took the things out of her trunk, and laid them away in this drawer
and that, she spoke of events in the village, and told who was dead, who
was married, and who had gone away. "I stayed longer than I expected, a
little, because father seemed to want me to. I don't think mother's so well
as she used to be, I--I'm afraid she seems to be failing, somehow."

Her voice dropped to a lower key, and Bartley said, "I'm sorry to hear
that. I guess she isn't failing. But of course she's getting on, and every
year makes a difference."

"Yes, that must be it," she answered, looking at a bundle of collars she
had in her hand, as if absorbed in the question as to where she should put
them.

Before they slept that night she asked, "Bartley, did you hear about Hannah
Morrison?"

"No. What about her?"

"She's gone--gone away. The last time she was seen was in Portland.
They don't know what's become of her. They say that Henry Bird is about
heart-broken; but everybody knows she never cared for him. I hated to write
to you about it."

Bartley experienced so disagreeable a sensation that he was silent for a
time. Then he gave a short, bitter laugh. "Well, that's what it was bound
to come to, sooner or later, I suppose. It's a piece of good luck for
Bird."

Bartley went about picking up work from one paper and another, but not
securing a basis on any. In that curious and unwholesome leniency which
corrupt natures manifest, he and Witherby met at their next encounter on
quite amicable terms. Bartley reported some meetings for the Events, and
experienced no resentment when Witherby at the office introduced him to the
gentleman with whom he had replaced him. Of course Bartley expected that
Witherby would insinuate things to his disadvantage, but he did not mind
that. He heard of something of the sort being done in Ricker's presence,
and of Ricker's saying that in any question of honor and veracity between
Witherby and Hubbard he should decide for Hubbard. Bartley was not very
grateful for this generous defence; he thought that if Ricker had not been
such an ass in the first place there would have been no trouble between
them, and Witherby would not have had that handle against him.

He was enjoying himself very well, and he felt entitled to the comparative
rest which had not been of his seeking. He wished that Halleck would come
back, for he would like to ask his leave to put that money into some other
enterprise. His credit was good, and he had not touched the money to pay
any of his accumulated bills; he would have considered it dishonorable to
do so. But it annoyed him to have the money lying idle. In his leisure he
studied the stock market, and he believed that he had several points which
were infallible. He put a few hundreds--two or three--of Halleck's money
into a mining stock which was so low that it _must_ rise. In the mean time
he tried a new kind of beer,--Norwegian beer, which he found a little
lighter even than tivoli. It was more expensive, but it was _very_ light,
and it was essential to Bartley to drink the lightest beer he could find.

He stayed a good deal at home, now, for he had leisure, and it was a much
more comfortable place since Marcia had ceased to question or reproach
him. She did not interfere with some bachelor habits he had formed, in
her absence, of sleeping far into the forenoon; he now occasionally did
night-work on some of the morning papers, and the rest was necessary; he
had his breakfast whenever he got up, as if he had been at a hotel. He
wondered upon what new theory she was really treating him; but he had
always been apt to accept what was comfortable in life without much
question, and he did not wonder long. He was immensely good-natured now.
In his frequent leisure he went out to walk with Marcia and Flavia, and
sometimes he took the little girl alone. He even went to church with them
one Sunday, and called at the Hallecks as often as Marcia liked. The young
ladies had returned, but Ben Halleck was still away. It made Bartley smile
to hear his wife talking of Halleck with his mother and sisters, and
falling quite into the family way of regarding him as if he were somehow a
saint and martyr.

Bartley was still dabbling in stocks with Halleck's money; some of it had
lately gone to pay an assessment which had unexpectedly occurred in place
of a dividend. He told Marcia that he was holding the money ready to return
to Halleck when he came back, or to put it into some other enterprise where
it would help to secure Bartley a new basis. They were now together more
than they had been since the first days of their married life in Boston;
but the perfect intimacy of those days was gone; he had his reserves, and
she her preoccupations,--with the house, with the little girl, with her
anxiety about her mother. Sometimes they sat a whole evening together, with
almost nothing to say to each other, he reading and she sewing. After an
evening of this sort, Bartley felt himself worse bored than if Marcia had
spent it in taking him to task as she used to do. Once he looked at her
over the top of his paper, and distinctly experienced that he was tired of
the whole thing.

But the political canvass was growing more interesting now. It was almost
the end of October, and the speech-making had become very lively. The
Democrats were hopeful and the Republicans resolute, and both parties were
active in getting out their whole strength, as the saying is, at such
times. This was done not only by speech-making, but by long nocturnal
processions of torch-lights; by day, as well as by night, drums throbbed
and horns brayed, and the feverish excitement spread its contagion through
the whole population. But it did not affect Bartley. He had cared nothing
about the canvass from the beginning, having an equal contempt for
the bloody shirt of the Republicans and the reform pretensions of the
Democrats. The only thing that he took an interest in was the betting; he
laid his wagers with so much apparent science and sagacity that he had
a certain following of young men who bet as Hubbard did. Hubbard, they
believed, had a long head; he disdained bets of hats, and of barrels of
apples, and ordeals by wheelbarrow; he would bet only with people who could
put up their money, and his followers honored him for it; when asked where
he got his money, being out of place, and no longer instant to do work that
fell in his way, they answered from a ready faith that he had made a good
thing in mining stocks.

In her heart, Marcia probably did not share this faith. But she faithfully
forbore to harass Bartley with her doubts, and on those evenings when he
found her such dull company she was silent because if she spoke she must
express the trouble in her mind. Women are more apt to theorize their
husbands than men in their stupid self-absorption ever realize. When a man
is married, his wife almost ceases to be exterior to his consciousness; she
afflicts or consoles him like a condition of health or sickness; she
is literally part of him in a spiritual sense, even when he is rather
indifferent to her; but the most devoted wife has always a corner of
her soul in which she thinks of her husband as _him_; in which she
philosophizes him wholly aloof from herself. In such an obscure fastness
of her being, Marcia had meditated a great deal upon Bartley during her
absence at Equity,--meditated painfully, and in her sort prayerfully, upon
him. She perceived that he was not her young dream of him; and since it
appeared to her that she could not forego that dream and live, she could
but accuse herself of having somehow had a perverse influence upon him. She
knew that she had never reproached him except for his good, but she saw too
that she had always made him worse, and not better. She recurred to what he
said the first night they arrived in Boston: "I believe that, if you have
faith in me, I shall get along; and when you don't, I shall go to the bad."
She could reason to no other effect, than that hereafter, no matter what
happened, she must show perfect faith in him by perfect patience. It was
hard, far harder than she had thought. But she did forbear; she did use
patience.

The election day came and went. Bartley remained out till the news of
Tilden's success could no longer be doubted, and then came home jubilant.
Marcia seemed not to understand. "I didn't know you cared so much for
Tilden," she said, quietly. "Mr. Halleck is for Hayes; and Ben Halleck was
coming home to vote."

"That's all right: a vote in Massachusetts makes no difference. I'm for
Tilden, because I have the most money up on him. The success of that
noble old reformer is worth seven hundred dollars to me in bets." Bartley
laughed, rubbed her cheeks with his chilly hands, and went down into
the cellar for some beer. He could not have slept without that, in his
excitement; but he was out very early the next morning, and in the raw damp
of the rainy November day he received a more penetrating chill when he saw
the bulletins at the newspaper offices intimating that a fair count might
give the Republicans enough Southern States to elect Hayes. This appeared
to Bartley the most impudent piece of political effrontery in the whole
history of the country, and among those who went about denouncing
Republican chicanery at the Democratic club-rooms, no one took a loftier
tone of moral indignation than he. The thought that he might lose so much
of Halleck's money through the machinations of a parcel of carpet-bagging
tricksters filled him with a virtue at which he afterwards smiled when he
found that people were declaring their bets off. "I laid a wager on the
popular result, not on the decision of the Returning Boards," he said in
reclaiming his money from the referees. He had some difficulty in getting
it back, but he had got it when he walked homeward at night, after having
been out all day; and there now ensued in his soul a struggle as to what he
should do with this money. He had it all except the three hundred he had
ventured on the mining stock, which would eventually he worth everything he
had paid for it. After his frightful escape from losing half of it on
those bets, he had an intense longing to be rid of it, to give it back
to Halleck, who never would ask him for it, and then to go home and tell
Marcia everything, and throw himself on her mercy. Better poverty, better
disgrace before Halleck and her, better her condemnation, than this life
of temptation that he had been leading. He saw how hideous it was in the
retrospect, and he shuddered; his good instincts awoke, and put forth their
strength, such as it was; tears came into his eyes; he resolved to write to
Kinney and exonerate Ricker, he resolved humbly to beg Ricker's pardon. He
must leave Boston; but if Marcia would forgive him, he would go back with
her to Equity, and take up the study of the law in her father's office
again, and fulfil all her wishes. He would have a hard time to overcome the
old man's prejudices, but he deserved a hard time, and he knew he should
finally succeed. It would be bitter, returning to that stupid little town,
and he imagined the intrusive conjecture and sarcastic comment that would
attend his return; but he believed that he could live this down, and he
trusted himself to laugh it down. He already saw himself there, settled in
the Squire's office, reinstated in public opinion, a leading lawyer of the
place, with Congress open before him whenever he chose to turn his face
that way.

He had thought of going first to Halleck, and returning the money, but he
was willing to give himself the encouragement of Marcia's pleasure, of her
forgiveness and her praise in an affair that had its difficulties and
would require all his manfulness. The maid met him at the door with little
Flavia, and told him that Marcia had gone out to the Hallecks', but had
left word that she would soon return, and that then they would have supper
together. Her absence dashed his warm impulse, but he recovered himself,
and took the little one from the maid. He lighted the gas in the parlor,
and had a frolic with Flavia in kindling a fire in the grate, and making
the room bright and cheerful. He played with the child and made her laugh;
he already felt the pleasure of a good conscience, though with a faint
nether ache in his heart which was perhaps only his wish to have the
disagreeable preliminaries to his better life over as soon as possible. He
drew two easy-chairs up at opposite corners of the hearth, and sat down in
one, leaving the other for Marcia; he had Flavia standing on his knees, and
clinging fast to his fingers, laughing and crowing while he danced her up
and down, when he heard the front door open, and Marcia burst into the
room.

She ran to him and plucked the child from him, and then went back as far as
she could from him in the room, crying, "Give _me_ the child!" and facing
him with the look he knew. Her eyes were dilated, and her visage white with
the transport that had whirled her far beyond the reach of reason. The
frail structure of his good resolutions dropped to ruin at the sight, but
he mechanically rose and advanced upon her till she forbade him with a
muffled shriek of "Don't _touch_ me! So!" she went on, gasping and catching
her breath, "it was _you_! I might have known it! I might have guessed it
from the first! _You_! Was _that_ the reason why you didn't care to have me
hurry home this summer? Was that--was that--" She choked, and convulsively
pressed her face into the neck of the child, which began to cry.

Bartley closed the doors, and then, with his hands in his pockets,
confronted her with a smile of wicked coolness. "Will you be good enough to
tell me what you're talking about?"

"Do you pretend that you don't know? I met a woman at the bottom of the
street just now. Do you know who?"

"No; but it's very dramatic. Go on!"

"It was Hannah Morrison! She reeled against me; and when I--such a fool as
I was!--pitied her, because I was on my way home to you, and was thinking
about you and loving you, and was so happy in it, and asked her how she
came to that, she _struck_ me, and told me to--to--ask my--husband!"

The transport broke in tears; the denunciation had turned to entreaty in
everything but words; but Bartley had hardened his heart now past all
entreaty. The idiotic penitent that he had been a few moments ago, the
soft, well-meaning dolt, was so far from him now as to be scarce within the
reach of his contempt. He was going to have this thing over once for all;
he would have no mercy upon himself or upon her; the Devil was in him, and
uppermost in him, and the Devil is fierce and proud, and knows how to make
many base emotions feel like a just self-respect. "And did you believe a
woman like that?" he sneered.

"Do I believe a man like this?" she demanded, with a dying flash of her
fury. "You--you don't dare to deny it."

"Oh, no, I don't deny it. For one reason, it would be of no use. For all
practical purposes, I admit it. What then?"

"What then?" she asked, bewildered. "Bartley; You don't mean it!"

"Yes, I do. I mean it. I _don't_ deny it. What then? What are you going to
do about it?" She gazed at him in incredulous horror. "Come! I mean what I
say. What will you do?"

"Oh, merciful God! what shall I do?" she prayed aloud.

"That's just what I'm curious to know. When you leaped in here, just now,
you must have meant to do something, if I couldn't convince you that the
woman was lying. Well, you see that I don't try. I give you leave to
believe whatever she said. What then?"

"Bartley!" she besought him in her despair. "Do you drive me from you?"

"Oh, no, certainly not. That isn't my way. You have driven me from you, and
I might claim the right to retaliate, but I don't. I've no expectation that
you'll go away, and I want to see what else you'll do. You would have me,
before we were married; you were tolerably shameless in getting me; when
your jealous temper made you throw me away, you couldn't live till you got
me back again; you ran after me. Well, I suppose you've learnt wisdom,
now. At least you won't try _that_ game again. But what _will_ you do?" He
looked at her smiling, while he dealt her these stabs one by one.

She set down the child, and went out to the entry where its hat and cloak
hung. She had not taken off her own things, and now she began to put on the
little one's garments with shaking hands, kneeling before it. "I will never
live with you again, Bartley," she said.

"Very well. I doubt it, as far as you're concerned; but if you go away now,
you certainly _won't_ live with me again, for I shall not let you come
back. Understand that."

Each had most need of the other's mercy, but neither would have mercy.

"It isn't for what you won't deny. I don't believe that. It's for what
you've said now." She could not make the buttons and the button-holes of
the child's sack meet with her quivering fingers; he actually stooped down
and buttoned the little garment for her, as if they had been going to take
the child out for a walk between them. She caught it up in her arms, and,
sobbing "Good by, Bartley!" ran out of the room.

"Recollect that if you go, you don't come back," he said. The outer door
crashing to behind her was his answer.

He sat down to think, before the fire he had built for her. It was blazing
brightly now, and the whole room had a hideous cosiness. He could not
think, he must act. He went up to their room, where the gas was burning
low, as if she had lighted it and then frugally turned it down as her wont
was. He did not know what his purpose was, but it developed itself. He
began to pack his things in a travelling-bag which he took out of the
closet, and which he had bought for her when she set out for Equity in the
summer; it had the perfume of her dresses yet.

When this was finished, he went down stairs again and being now strangely
hungry he made a meal of such things as he found set out on the tea-table.
Then he went over the papers in his secretary; he burnt some of them, and
put others into his bag.

After all this was done he sat down by the fire again, and gave Marcia a
quarter of an hour longer in which to return. He did not know whether he
was afraid that she would or would not come. But when the time ended, he
took up his bag and went out of the house. It began to rain, and he went
back for an umbrella: he gave her that one chance more, and he ran up into
their room. But she had not come back. He went out again, and hurried away
through the rain to the Albany Depot, where he bought a ticket for Chicago.
There was as yet nothing definite in his purpose, beyond the fact that he
was to be rid of her: whether for a long or short time, or forever, he did
not yet know; whether he meant ever to communicate with her, or seek or
suffer a reconciliation, the locomotive that leaped westward into the dark
with him knew as well as he.

Yet all the mute, obscure forces of habit, which are doubtless the
strongest forces in human nature, were dragging him back to her. Because
their lives had been united so long, it seemed impossible to sever them,
though their union had been so full of misery and discord; the custom of
marriage was so subtile and so pervasive, that his heart demanded her
sympathy for what he was suffering in abandoning her. The solitude into
which he had plunged stretched before him so vast, so sterile and hopeless,
that he had not the courage to realize it; he insensibly began to give it
limits: he would return after so many months, weeks, days.

He passed twenty-four hours on the train, and left it at Cleveland for the
half-hour it stopped for supper. But he could not eat; he had to own to
himself that he was beaten, and that he must return, or throw himself into
the lake. He ran hastily to the baggage-car, and effected the removal of
his bag; then he went to the ticket-office, and waited at the end of a long
queue for his turn at the window. His turn came at last, and he confronted
the nervous and impatient ticket-agent, without speaking.

"Well, sir, what do you want?" demanded the agent. Then, with rising
temper, "What is it? Are you deaf? Are you dumb? You can't expect to stand
there all night!"

The policeman outside the rail laid his hand on Bartley's shoulder: "Move
on, my friend."

He obeyed, and reeled away in a fashion that confirmed the policeman's
suspicions. He searched his pockets again and again; but his porte-monnaie
was in none of them. It had been stolen, and Halleck's money with the rest.
Now he could not return; nothing remained for him but the ruin he had
chosen.



XXXII.


Halleck prolonged his summer vacation beyond the end of October. He had
been in town from time to time and then had set off again on some new
absence; he was so restless and so far from well during the last of these
flying visits, that the old people were glad when he wrote them that
he should stay as long as the fine weather continued. He spoke of an
interesting man whom he had met at the mountain resort where he was
staying; a Spanish-American, attached to one of the Legations at
Washington, who had a scheme for Americanizing popular education in his own
country. "He has made a regular set at me," Halleck wrote, "and if I had
not fooled away so much time already on law and on leather, I should like
to fool away a little more on such a cause as this." He did not mention the
matter again in his letters; but the first night after his return, when
they all sat together in the comfort of having him at home again, he asked
his father, "What should you think of my going to South America?"

The old man started up from the pleasant after-supper drowse into which he
was suffering himself to fall, content with Halleck's presence, and willing
to leave the talk to the women folk. "I don't know what you mean, Ben?"

"I suppose it's my having the matter so much in mind that makes me feel as
if we had talked it over. I mentioned it in one of my letters."

"Yes," returned his father; "but I presumed you were joking."

Halleck frowned impatiently; he would not meet the gaze of his mother and
sisters, but he addressed himself again to his father. "I don't know that I
was in earnest." His mother dropped her eyes to her mending, with a faint
sigh of relief. "But I can't say," he added, "that I was joking, exactly.
The man himself was very serious about it." He stopped, apparently to
govern an irritable impulse, and then he went on to set the project of his
Spanish-American acquaintance before them, explaining it in detail.

At the end, "That's good," said his father, "but why need _you_ have gone,
Ben?"

The question seemed to vex Halleck; he did not answer at once. His mother
could not bear to see him crossed, and she came to his help against herself
and his father, since it was only supposing the case. "I presume," she
said, "that we could have looked at it as a missionary work."

"It isn't a missionary work, mother," answered Halleck, severely, "in any
sense that you mean. I should go down there to teach, and I should be
paid for it. And I want to say at once that they have no yellow-fever nor
earthquakes, and that they have not had a revolution for six years. The
country's perfectly safe every way, and so wholesome that it will be a good
thing for me. But I shouldn't expect to convert anybody."

"Of course not, Ben," said his mother, soothingly.

"I hope you wouldn't object to it if it _were_ a missionary work," said one
of the elder sisters.

"No, Anna," returned Ben.

"I merely wanted to know," said Anna.

"Then I hope you're satisfied, Anna," Olive cut in. "Ben won't refuse to
convert the Uruguayans if they apply in a proper spirit."

"I think Anna had a right to ask," said Miss Louisa, the eldest.

"Oh, undoubtedly, Miss Halleck," said Olive. "I like to see Ben reproved
for misbehavior to his mother, myself."

Her father laughed at Olive's prompt defence. "Well, it's a cause that
we've all got to respect; but I don't see why _you_ should go, Ben, as I
said before. It would do very well for some young fellow who had no settled
prospects, but you've got your duties here. I presume you looked at it in
that light. As you said in your letter, you've fooled away so much time on
leather and law--"

"I shall never amount to anything in the law!" Ben broke out. His mother
looked at him in anxiety; his father kept a steady smile on his face; Olive
sat alert for any chance that offered to put down her elder sisters, who
drew in their breath, and grew silently a little primmer. "I'm not well--"

"Oh, I know you're not, dear," interrupted his mother, glad of another
chance to abet him.

"I'm not strong enough to go on with the line of work I've marked out, and
I feel that I'm throwing away the feeble powers I have."

His father answered with less surprise than Halleck had evidently expected,
for he had thrown out his words with a sort of defiance; probably the old
man had watched him closely enough to surmise that it might come to this
with him at last. At any rate, he was able to say, without seeming to
assent too readily, "Well, well, give up the law, then, and come back into
leather, as you call it. Or take up something else. We don't wish to make
anything a burden to you; but take up some useful work at home. There are
plenty of things to be done."

"Not for me," said Halleck, gloomily.

"Oh, yes, there are," said the old man.

"I see you are not willing to have me go," said Halleck, rising in
uncontrollable irritation. "But I wish you wouldn't all take this tone with
me!"

"We haven't taken any tone with you, Ben," said his mother, with pleading
tenderness.

"I think Anna has decidedly taken a tone," said Olive.

Anna did not retort, but "What tone?" demanded Louisa, in her behalf.

"Hush, children," said their mother.

"Well, well," suggested his father to Ben. "Think it over, think it over.
There's no hurry."

"I've thought it over; there _is_ hurry," retorted Halleck. "If I go, I
must go at once."

His mother arrested her thread, half drawn through the seam, letting her
hand drop, while she glanced at him.

"It isn't so much a question of your giving up the law, Ben, as of your
giving up your family and going so far away from us all," said his father.
"That's what I shouldn't like."

"I don't like that, either. But I can't help it." He added, "Of course,
mother, I shall not go without your full and free consent. You and father
must settle it between you." He fetched a quick, worried sigh as he put his
hand on the door.

"Ben isn't himself at all," said Mrs. Halleck, with tears in her eyes,
after he had left the room.

"No," said her husband. "He's restless. He'll get over this idea in a few
days." He urged this hope against his wife's despair, and argued himself
into low spirits.

"I don't believe but what it _would_ be the best thing for his health, may
be," said Mrs. Halleck, at the end.

"I've always had my doubts whether he would ever come to anything in the
law," said the father.

The elder sisters discussed Halleck's project apart between themselves, as
their wont was with any family interest, and they bent over a map of South
America, so as to hide what they were doing from their mother.

Olive had left the room by another door, and she intercepted Halleck before
he reached his own.

"What is the matter, Ben?" she whispered.

"Nothing," he answered, coldly. But he added, "Come in, Olive."

She followed him, and hovered near after he turned up the gas.

"I can't stand it here, I must go," he said, turning a dull, weary look
upon her.

"Who was at the Elm House that you knew this last time?" she asked,
quickly.

"Laura Dixmore isn't driving me away, if you mean that," replied Halleck.

"I _couldn't_ believe it was she! I should have despised you if it was. But
I shall hate her, whoever it was."

Halleck sat down before his table, and his sister sank upon the corner of a
chair near it, and looked wistfully at him. "I know there is some one!"

"If you think I've been fool enough to offer myself to any one, Olive,
you're very much mistaken."

"Oh, it needn't have come to that," said Olive, with indignant pity.

"My life's a failure here," cried Halleck, moving his head uneasily from
side to side. "I feel somehow as if I could go out there and pick up the
time I've lost. Great Heaven!" he cried, "if I were only running away from
some innocent young girl's rejection, what a happy man I should be!"

"It's some horrid married thing, then, that's been flirting with you!"

He gave a forlorn laugh. "I'd almost confess it to please you, Olive. But
I'd prefer to get out of the matter without lying, if I could. Why need you
suppose any reason but the sufficient one I've given?--Don't afflict me!
don't imagine things about me, don't make a mystery of me! I've been blunt
and awkward, and I've bungled the business with father and mother; but I
want to get away because I'm a miserable fraud here, and I think I might
rub on a good while there before I found myself out again."

"Ben," demanded Olive, regardless of his words, "what have you been doing?"

"The old story,--nothing."

"Is that true, Ben?"

"You used to be satisfied with asking once, Olive."

"You _haven't_ been so wicked, so careless, as to get some poor creature in
love with, you, and then want to run away from the misery you've made?"

"I suppose if I look it there's no use denying it," said Halleck, letting
his sad eyes meet hers, and smiling drearily. "You insist upon having a
lady in the case?"

"Yes. But I see you won't tell me anything; and I _won't_ afflict you. Only
I'm afraid it's just some silly thing, that you've got to brooding over,
and that you'll let drive you away."

"Well, you have the comfort of reflecting that I can't get away, whatever
the pressure is."

"You know better than that, Ben; and so do I. You know that, if you haven't
got father and mother's consent already, it's only because you haven't had
the heart to ask for it. As far as that's concerned, you're gone already.
But I hope you won't go without thinking it over, as father says,--and
talking it over. I hate to have you seem unsteady and fickle-minded, when
I know you're not; and I'm going to set myself against this project till
I know what's driving you from us,--or till I'm sure that it's something
worth while. You needn't expect that I shall help to make it easy for you;
I shall help to make it hard."

Her loving looks belied her threats; if the others could not resist Ben
when any sort of desire showed itself through his habitual listlessness,
how could she, who understood him best and sympathized with him most?
"There was something I was going to talk to you about, to-night, if you
hadn't scared us all with this ridiculous scheme, and ask you whether you
couldn't do something." She seemed to suggest the change of interest with
the hope of winning his thoughts away from the direction they had taken;
but he listened apathetically, and left her to go further or not as she
chose. "I think," she added abruptly, "that some trouble is hanging over
those wretched Hubbards."

"Some new one?" asked Halleck, with sad sarcasm, turning his eyes towards
her, as if with the resolution of facing her.

"You know he's left his place on that newspaper."

"Yes, I heard that when I was at home before."

"There are some very disagreeable stories about it. They say he was turned
away by Mr. Witherby for behaving badly,--for printing something he
oughtn't to have done."

"That was to have been expected," said Halleck.

"He hasn't found any other place, and Marcia says he gets very little work
to do. He must be running into debt, terribly. I feel very anxious about
them. I don't know what they're living on."

"Probably on some money I lent him," said Halleck, quietly. "I lent him
fifteen hundred in the spring. It ought to make him quite comfortable for
the present."

"Oh, Ben! Why did you lend him money? You might have known he wouldn't do
any good with it."

Halleck explained how and why the loan had been made, and added: "If he's
supporting his family with it, he's doing some good. I lent it to him for
her sake."

Halleck looked hardily into his sister's face, but he dropped his eyes
when she answered, simply: "Yes, of course. But I don't believe she knows
anything about it; and I'm glad of it: it would only add to her trouble.
She worships you, Ben!"

"Does she?"

"She seems to think you are perfect, and she never comes here but she asks
when you're to be home. I suppose she thinks you have a good influence on
that miserable husband of hers. He's going from bad to worse, I guess.
Father heard that he is betting on the election. That's what he's doing
with your money."

"It would be somebody else's money if it wasn't mine," said Halleck.
"Bartley Hubbard must live, and he must have the little excitements that
make life agreeable."

"Poor thing!" sighed Olive, "I don't know what she would do if she heard
that you were going away. To hear her talk, you would think she had been
counting the days and hours till you got back. It's ridiculous, the way she
goes on with mother; asking everything about you, as if she expected to
make Bartley Hubbard over again on your pattern. I should hate to have
anybody think me such a saint as she does you. But there isn't much danger,
thank goodness! I could laugh, sometimes, at the way she questions us all
about you, and is so delighted when she finds that you and that wretch have
anything in common. But it's all too miserably sad. She certainly _is_
the most single-hearted creature alive," continued Olive, reflectively.
"Sometimes she _scares_ me with her innocence. I don't believe that even
her jealousy ever suggested a wicked idea to her: she's furious because she
feels the injustice of giving so much more than he does. She hasn't really
a thought for anybody else: I do believe that if she were free to choose
from now till doomsday she would always choose Bartley Hubbard, bad as she
knows him to be. And if she were a widow, and anybody else proposed to her,
she would be utterly shocked and astonished."

"Very likely," said Halleck, absently.

"I feel very unhappy about her," Olive resumed. "I know that she's anxious
and troubled all the time. _Can't_ you do something, Ben? Have a talk
with that disgusting thing, and see if you can't put him straight again,
somehow?"

"No!" exclaimed Halleck, bursting violently from his abstraction. "I shall
have nothing to do with them! Let him go his own way and the sooner he goes
to the--I won't interfere,--I can't, I mustn't! I wonder at you, Olive!" He
pushed away from the table, and went limping about the room, searching here
and there for his hat and stick, which were on the desk where he had put
them, in plain view. As he laid hand on them at last, he met his sister's
astonished eyes. "If I interfered, I should not interfere because I cared
for _him_ at all!" he cried.

"Of course not," said Olive. "But I don't see anything to make you _wonder_
at me about that."

"It would be because I cared for her--"

"Certainly! You didn't suppose I expected you to interfere from any other
motive?"

He stood looking at her in stupefaction, with his hand on his hat and
stick, like a man who doubts whether he has heard aright. Presently a
shiver passed over him, another light came into his eyes, and he said
quietly, "I'm going out to see Atherton."

"To-night?" said his sister, accepting provisionally, as women do, the
apparent change of subject. "Don't go to-night, Ben! You're too tired."

"I'm not tired. I intended to see him to-night, at any rate. I want to talk
over this South American scheme with him." He put on his hat, and moved
quickly toward the door.

"Ask him about the Hubbards," said Olive. "Perhaps he can tell you
something."

"I don't want to know anything. I shall ask him nothing."

She slipped between him and the door. "Ben, you haven't heard anything
against poor Marcia, have you?"

"No!"

"You don't think she's to blame in any way for his going wrong, do you?

"How could I?"

"Then I don't understand why you won't do anything to help her."

He looked at her again, and opened his lips to speak once, but closed them
before he said, "I've got my own affairs to worry me. Isn't that reason
enough for not interfering in theirs?"

"Not for you, Ben."

"Then I don't choose to mix myself up in other people's misery. I don't
like it, as you once said."

"But you can't help it sometimes, as _you_ said."

"I can this time, Olive. Don't you see,--" he began.

"I see there's something you won't tell me. But I shall find it out." She
threatened him half playfully.

"I wish you could," he answered. "Then perhaps you'd let me know." She
opened the door for him now, and as he passed out he said gently, "I _am_
tired, but I sha'n't begin to rest till I have had this talk with Atherton.
I had better go."

"Yes," Olive assented, "you'd better." She added in banter, "You're
altogether too mysterious to be of much comfort at home."

The family heard him close the outside door behind him after Olive came
back to them, and she explained, "He's gone out to talk it over with Mr.
Atherton."

His father gave a laugh of relief. "Well, if he leaves it to Atherton, I
guess we needn't worry about it."

"The child isn't at all well," said his mother.



XXXIII.


Halleck met Atherton at the door of his room with his hat and coat on.
"Why, Halleck! I was just going to see if you had come home!"

"You needn't now," said Halleck, pushing by him into the room. "I want to
see you, Atherton, on business."

Atherton took off his hat, and closed the door with one hand, while he
slipped the other arm out of his overcoat sleeve. "Well, to tell the truth,
I was going to mingle a little business myself with the pleasure of seeing
you." He turned up the gas in his drop-light, and took the chair from which
he had looked across the table at Halleck, when they talked there before.
"It's the old subject," he said, with a sense of repetition in the
situation. "I learn from Witherby that Hubbard has taken that money of
yours out of the Events, and from what I hear elsewhere he is making ducks
and drakes of it on election bets. What shall you do about it?"

"Nothing," said Halleck.

"Oh! Very well," returned Atherton, with the effect of being a little
snubbed, but resolved to take his snub professionally. He broke out,
however, in friendly exasperation: "Why in the world did you lend the
fellow that money?"

Halleck lifted his brooding eyes, and fixed them half pleadingly, half
defiantly upon his friend's face. "I did it for his wife's sake."

"Yes, I know," returned Atherton. "I remember how you felt. I couldn't
share your feeling, but I respected it. However, I doubt if your loan was a
benefit to either of them. It probably tempted him to count upon money that
he hadn't earned, and that's always corrupting."

"Yes," Halleck replied. "But I can't say that, so far as he's concerned,
I'm very sorry. I don't suppose it would do her any good if I forced him to
disgorge any balance he may have left from his wagers?"

"No, hardly."

"Then I shall let him alone."

The subject was dismissed, and Atherton waited for Halleck to speak of
the business on which he had come. But Halleck only played with the paper
cutter which his left hand had found on the table near him, and, with his
chin sunk on his breast, seemed lost in an unhappy reverie.

"I hope you won't accuse yourself of doing him an injury," said Atherton,
at last, with a smile.

"Injury?" demanded Halleck, quickly. "What injury? How?"

"By lending him that money."

"Oh! I had forgotten that; I wasn't thinking of it," returned Halleck
impatiently. "I was thinking of something different. I'm aware of disliking
the man so much, that I should be willing to have greater harm than that
happen to him,--the greatest, for what I know. Though I don't know, after
all, that it would be harm. In another life, if there is one, he might
start in a new direction; but that isn't imaginable of him here; he can
only go from bad to worse; he can only make more and more sorrow and shame.
Why shouldn't one wish him dead, when his death could do nothing but good?"

"I suppose you don't expect me to answer such a question seriously."

"But suppose I did?"

"Then I should say that no man ever wished any such good as that, except
from the worst motive; and the less one has to do with such questions, even
as abstractions, the better."

"You're right," said Halleck. "But why do you call it an abstraction?"

"Because, in your case, nothing else is conceivable."

"I told you I was willing the worst should happen to him."

"And I didn't believe you."

Halleck lay back in his chair, and laughed wearily. "I wish I could
convince somebody of my wickedness. But it seems to be useless to try. I
say things that ought to raise the roof, both to you here and to Olive at
home, and you tell me you don't believe me, and she tells me that Mrs.
Hubbard thinks me a saint. I suppose now, that if I took you by the
button-hole and informed you confidentially that I had stopped long enough
at 129 Clover Street to put Bartley Hubbard quietly out of the way, you
wouldn't send for a policeman."

"I should send for a doctor," said Atherton.

"Such is the effect of character! And yet out of the fulness of the heart,
the mouth speaketh. Out of the heart proceed all those unpleasant things
enumerated in Scripture; but if you bottle them up there, and keep your
label fresh, it's all that's required of you, by your fellow-beings, at
least. What an amusing thing morality would be if it were not--otherwise.
Atherton, do you believe that such a man as Christ ever lived?"

"I know you do, Halleck," said Atherton.

"Well, that depends upon what you call _me_. It what I was--if my well
Sunday-schooled youth--is I, I do. But if I, poising dubiously on the
momentary present, between the past and future, am I, I'm afraid I don't.
And yet it seems to me that I have a fairish sort of faith. I know that, if
Christ never lived on earth, some One lived who imagined him, and that One
must have been a God. The historical fact oughtn't to matter. Christ being
imagined, can't you see what a comfort, what a rapture, it must have been
to all these poor souls to come into such a presence and be looked through
and through? The relief, the rest, the complete exposure of Judgment Day--"

"Every day is Judgment Day," said Atherton.

"Yes, I know your doctrine. But I mean the Last Day. We ought to have
something in anticipation of it, here, in our social system. Character is a
superstition, a wretched fetish. Once a year wouldn't be too often to seize
upon sinners whose blameless life has placed them above suspicion, and turn
them inside out before the community, so as to show people how the smoke
of the Pit had been quietly blackening their interior. That would destroy
character as a cult." He laughed again. "Well, this isn't business,--though
it isn't pleasure, either, exactly. What I came for was to ask you
something. I've finished at the Law School, and I'm just ready to begin
here in the office with you. Don't you think it would be a good time for
me to give up the law? Wait a moment!" he said, arresting in Atherton an
impulse to speak. "We will take the decent surprise, the friendly demur,
the conscientious scruple, for granted. Now, honestly, do you believe I've
got the making of a lawyer in me?"

"I don't think you're very well, Halleck," Atherton began.

"Ah, _you're_ a lawyer! You won't give me a direct answer!"

"I will if you wish," retorted Atherton.

"Well."

"Do you want to give it up?"

"Yes."

"Then do it. No man ever prospered in it yet who wanted to leave it. And
now, since it's come to this, I'll tell you what I really _have_ thought,
all along. I've thought that, if your heart was really set on the law, you
would overcome your natural disadvantages for it; but if the time ever came
when you were tired of it, your chance was lost: you never would make a
lawyer. The question is, whether that time has come."

"It has," said Halleck.

"Then stop, here and now. You've wasted two years' time, but you can't get
it back by throwing more after it. I shouldn't be your friend, I shouldn't
be an honest man, if I let you go on with me, after this. A bad lawyer is
such a very bad thing. This isn't altogether a surprise to me, but it will
be a blow to your father," he added, with a questioning look at Halleck,
after a moment.

"It might have been, if I hadn't taken the precaution to deaden the place
by a heavier blow first."

"Ah! you've spoken to him already?"

"Yes, I've had it out in a sneaking, hypothetical way. But I could see
that, so far as the law was concerned it was enough; it served. Not that
he's consented to the other thing; there's where I shall need your help,
Atherton. I'll tell you what my plan is." He stated it bluntly at first;
and then went over the ground and explained it fully, as he had done at
home. Atherton listened without permitting any sign of surprise to escape
him; but he listened with increasing gravity, as if he heard something not
expressed in Halleck's slow, somewhat nasal monotone, and at the end he
said, "I approve of any plan that will take you away for a while. Yes, I'll
speak to your father about it."

"If you think you need any conviction, I could use arguments to bring
it about in you," said Halleck, in recognition of his friend's ready
concurrence.

"No, I don't need any arguments to convince me, I believe," returned
Atherton.

"Then I wish you'd say something to bring me round! Unless argument is used
by somebody, the plan always produces a cold chill in me." Halleck smiled,
but Atherton kept a sober face. "I wish my Spanish American was here! What
makes you think it's a good plan? Why should I disappoint my father's hopes
again, and wring my mother's heart by proposing to leave them for any such
uncertain good as this scheme promises?" He still challenged his friend
with a jesting air, but a deeper and stronger feeling of some sort trembled
in his voice.

Atherton would not reply to his emotion; he answered, with obvious evasion:
"It's a good cause; in some sort--the best sort--it's a missionary work."

"That's what my mother said to me."

"And the change will be good for your health."

"That's what I said to my mother!"

Atherton remained silent, waiting apparently for Halleck to continue, or to
end the matter there, as he chose.

It was some moments before Halleck went on; "You would say, wouldn't you,
that my first duty was to my own undertakings, and to those who had a right
to expect their fulfilment from me? You would say that it was an enormity
to tear myself away from the affection that clings to me in that home of
mine, yonder, and that nothing but some supreme motive, could justify me?
And yet you pretend to be satisfied with the reasons I've given you. You're
not dealing honestly with me, Atherton!"

"No," said Atherton, keeping the same scrutiny of Halleck's face which he
had bent upon him throughout, but seeming now to hear his thoughts rather
than his words. "I knew that you would have some supreme motive; and if I
have pretended to approve your scheme on the reasons you have given me, I
haven't dealt honestly with you. But perhaps a little dishonesty is the
best thing under the circumstances. You haven't told me your real motive,
and I can't ask it."

"But you imagine it?"

"Yes."

"And what do you imagine? That I have been disappointed in love? That
I have been rejected? That the girl who had accepted me has broken her
engagement? Something of that sort?" demanded Halleck, scornfully.

Atherton did not answer.

"Oh, how far you are from the truth! How blest and proud and happy I should
be if it were the truth!" He looked into his friend's eyes, and added
bitterly: "You're not curious, Atherton; you don't ask me what my trouble
really is! Do you wish me to tell you what it is without asking?"

Atherton kept turning a pencil end for end between his fingers, while a
compassionate smile slightly curved his lips. "No," he said, finally, "I
think you had better not tell me your trouble. I can believe very well
without knowing it that it's serious--"

"Oh, tragic!" said Halleck, self-contemptuously.

"But I doubt if it would help you to tell it. I've too much respect for
your good sense to suppose that it's an unreality; and I suspect that
confession would only weaken you. If you told me, you would feel that you
had made me a partner in your responsibility, and you would be tempted to
leave the struggle to me. If you're battling with some temptation, some
self-betrayal, you must make the fight alone: you would only turn to an
ally to be flattered into disbelief of your danger or your culpability."

Halleck assented with a slight nod to each point that the lawyer made.
"You're right," he said, "but a man of your subtlety can't pretend that he
doesn't know what the trouble is in such a simple case as mine."

"I don't know anything certainly," returned Atherton, "and as far as I can
I refuse to imagine anything. If your trouble concerns some one besides
yourself,--and no great trouble can concern one man alone,--you've no right
to tell it."

"Another Daniel come to judgment!"

"You must trust to your principles, your self-respect, to keep you right--"

Halleck burst into a harsh laugh, and rose from his chair: "Ah, there you
abdicate the judicial function! Principles, self-respect! Against
_that_? Don't you suppose I was approached _through_ my principles and
self-respect? Why, the Devil always takes a man on the very highest plane.
He knows all about our principles and self-respect, and what they're made
of. How the noblest and purest attributes of our nature, with which we trap
each other so easily, must amuse him! Pity, rectitude, moral indignation, a
blameless life,--he knows that they're all instruments for him. No, sir! No
more principles and self-respect for me,--I've had enough of them; there's
nothing for me but to run, and that's what I'm going to do. But you're
quite right about the other thing, Atherton, and I give you a beggar's
thanks for telling me that my trouble isn't mine alone, and I've no right
to confide it to you. It is mine in the sense that no other soul is defiled
with the knowledge of it, and I'm glad you saved me from the ghastly
profanation, the sacrilege, of telling it. I was sneaking round for your
sympathy; I did want somehow to shift the responsibility on to you; to get
you--God help me!--to flatter me out of my wholesome fear and contempt of
myself. Well! That's past, now, and--Good night!" He abruptly turned away
from Atherton and swung himself on his cane toward the door.

Atherton took up his hat and coat. "I'll walk home with you," he said.

"All right," returned Halleck, listlessly.

"How soon shall you go?" asked the lawyer, when they were in the street.

"Oh, there's a ship sailing from New York next week," said Halleck, in the
same tone of weary indifference. "I shall go in that."

They talked desultorily of other things.

When they came to the foot of Clover Street, Halleck plucked his hand
out of Atherton's arm. "I'm going up through here!" he said, with sullen
obstinacy.

"Better not," returned his friend, quietly.

"Will it hurt her if I stop to look at the outside of the house where she
lives?"

"It will hurt you," said Atherton.

"I don't wish to spare myself!" retorted Halleck. He shook off the touch
that Atherton had laid upon his shoulder, and started up the hill; the
other overtook him, and, like a man who has attempted to rule a drunkard by
thwarting his freak, and then hopes to accomplish his end by humoring it,
he passed his arm through Halleck's again, and went with him. But when they
came to the house, Halleck did not stop; he did not even look at it; but
Atherton felt the deep shudder that passed through him.

In the week that followed, they met daily, and Halleck's broken pride no
longer stayed him from the shame of open self-pity and wavering purpose.
Atherton found it easier to persuade the clinging reluctance of the father
and mother, than to keep Halleck's resolution for him: Halleck could no
longer keep it for himself. "Not much like the behavior of people we read
of in similar circumstances," he said once. "_They_ never falter when they
see the path of duty: they push forward without looking to either hand; or
else," he added, with a hollow laugh at his own satire, "they turn their
backs on it,--like men! Well!"

He grew gaunt and visibly feeble. In this struggle the two men changed
places. The plan for Halleck's flight was no longer his own, but
Atherton's; and when he did not rebel against it, he only passively
acquiesced. The decent pretence of ignorance on Atherton's part necessarily
disappeared: in all but words the trouble stood openly confessed between
them, and it came to Atherton's saying, in one of Halleck's lapses of
purpose, from which it had required all the other's strength to lift him:
"Don't come to me any more, Halleck, with the hope that I shall somehow
justify your evil against your good. I pitied you at first; but I blame you
now."

"You're atrocious," said Halleck, with a puzzled, baffled look. "What do
you mean?"

"I mean that you secretly think you have somehow come by your evil
virtuously; and you want me to persuade you that it is different from
other evils of exactly the same kind,--that it is beautiful and sweet and
pitiable, and not ugly as hell and bitter as death, to be torn out of you
mercilessly and flung from you with abhorrence. Well, I tell you that you
are suffering guiltily, for no man suffers innocently from such a cause.
You must _go_, and you can't go too soon. Don't suppose that I find
anything noble in your position. I should do you a great wrong if I didn't
do all I could to help you realize that you're in disgrace, and that you're
only making a choice of shames in running away. Suppose the truth was
known,--suppose that those who hold you dear could be persuaded of
it,--could you hold up your head?"

"Do I hold up my head as it is?" asked Halleck. "Did you ever see a more
abject dog than I am at this moment? Your wounds are faithful, Atherton;
but perhaps you might have spared me this last stab. If you want to know,
I can assure you that I don't feel any melodramatic vainglory. I know that
I'm running away because I'm beaten, but no other man can know the battle
I've fought. Don't you suppose I know how hideous this thing is? No one
else can know it in all its ugliness!" He covered his face with his hands.
"You are right," he said, when he could find his voice. "I suffer guiltily.
I must have known it when I seemed to be suffering for pity's sake; I knew
it before, and when you said that love without marriage was a worse hell
than any marriage without love, you left me without refuge: I had been
trying not to face the truth, but I had to face it then. I came away in
hell, and I have lived in hell ever since. I had tried to think it was a
crazy fancy, and put it on my failing health; I used to make believe that
some morning I should wake and find the illusion gone. I abhorred it from
the beginning as I do now; it has been torment to me; and yet somewhere
in my lost soul--the blackest depth, I dare say!--this shame has been so
sweet,--it is so sweet,--the one sweetness of life--Ah!" He dashed the weak
tears from his eyes, and rose and buttoned his coat about him. "Well, I
shall go. And I hope I shall never come back. Though you needn't mention
this to my father as an argument for my going when you talk me over with
him," he added, with a glimmer of his wonted irony. He waited a moment, and
then turned upon his friend, in sad upbraiding: "When I came to you a year
and a half ago, after I had taken that ruffian home drunk to her--Why
didn't you warn me then, Atherton? Did you see any danger?"

Atherton hesitated: "I knew that, with your habit of suffering for other
people, it would make you miserable; but I couldn't have dreamed this would
come of it. But you've never been out of your own keeping for a moment. You
are responsible, and you are to blame if you are suffering now, and can
find no safety for yourself but in running away."

"That's true," said Halleck, very humbly, "and I won't trouble you any
more. I can't go on sinning against her belief in me here, and live. I
shall go on sinning against it there, as long as I live; but it seems to me
the harm will be a little less. Yes, I will go."

But the night before he went, he came to Atherton's lodging to tell him
that he should not go; Atherton was not at home, and Halleck was spared
this last dishonor. He returned to his father's house through the rain
that was beginning to fall lightly, and as he let himself in with his key
Olive's voice said, "It's Ben!" and at the same time she laid her hand upon
his arm with a nervous, warning clutch. "Hush! Come in here!" She drew him
from the dimly lighted hall into the little reception-room near the door.
The gas was burning brighter there, and in the light he saw Marcia white
and still, where she sat holding her baby in her arms. They exchanged no
greeting: it was apparent that her being there transcended all usage, and
that they need observe none.

"Ben will go home with you," said Olive, soothingly. "Is it raining?" she
asked, looking at her brother's coat. "I will get my water-proof."

She left them a moment. "I have been--been walking--walking about," Marcia
panted. "It has got so dark--I'm--afraid to go home. I hate to--take you
from them--the last--night."

Halleck answered nothing; he sat staring at her till Olive came back with
the water-proof and an umbrella. Then, while his sister was putting the
waterproof over Marcia's shoulders, he said, "Let me take the little one,"
and gathered it, with or without her consent, from her arms into his. The
baby was sleeping; it nestled warmly against him with a luxurious quiver
under the shawl that Olive threw round it. "You can carry the umbrella," he
said to Marcia.

They walked fast, when they got out into the rainy dark, and it was hard to
shelter Halleck as he limped rapidly on. Marcia ran forward once, to see
if her baby were safely kept from the wet, and found that Halleck had its
little face pressed close between his neck and cheek. "Don't be afraid," he
said. "I'm looking out for it."

His voice sounded broken and strange, and neither of them spoke again till
they came in sight of Marcia's door. Then she tried to stop him. She put
her hand on his shoulder. "Oh, I'm afraid--afraid to go in," she pleaded.

He halted, and they stood confronted in the light of a street lamp; her
face was twisted with weeping. "Why are you afraid?" he demanded, harshly.

"We had a quarrel, and I--I ran away--I said that I would never come back.
I left him--"

"You must go back to him," said Halleck. "He's your husband!" He pushed on
again, saying over and over, as if the words were some spell in which he
found safety, "You must go back, you must go back, you must go back!"

He dragged her with him now, for she hung helpless on his arm, which she
had seized, and moaned to herself. At the threshold, "I can't go in!" she
broke out. "I'm afraid to go in! What will he say? What will he do? Oh,
come in with me! You are good,--and then I shall not be afraid!"

"You must go in alone! No man can be your refuge from your husband! Here!"
He released himself, and, kissing the warm little face of the sleeping
child, he pressed it into her arms. His fingers touched hers under the
shawl; he tore his hand away with a shiver.

She stood a moment looking at the closed door; then she flung it open, and,
pausing as if to gather her strength, vanished into the brightness within.

He turned, and ran crookedly down the street, wavering from side to side in
his lameness, and flinging up his arms to save himself from falling as he
ran, with a gesture that was like a wild and hopeless appeal.



XXXIV.


Marcia pushed into the room where she had left Bartley. She had no escape
from her fate; she must meet it, whatever it was. The room was empty,
and she began doggedly to search the house for him, up stairs and down,
carrying the child with her. She would not have been afraid now to call
him; but she had no voice, and she could not ask the servant anything when
she looked into the kitchen. She saw the traces of the meal he had made in
the dining-room, and when she went a second time to their chamber to lay
the little girl down in her crib, she saw the drawers pulled open, and the
things as he had tossed them about in packing his bag. She looked at the
clock on the mantel--an extravagance of Bartley's, for which she had
scolded him--and it was only half past eight; she had thought it must be
midnight.

She sat all night in a chair beside the bed; in the morning she drowsed and
dreamed that she was weeping on Bartley's shoulder, and he was joking her
and trying to comfort her, as he used to do when they were first married;
but it was the little girl, sitting up in her crib, and crying loudly for
her breakfast. She put on the child a pretty frock that Bartley liked, and
when she had dressed her own tumbled hair she went down stairs, feigning to
herself that they should find him in the parlor. The servant was setting
the table for breakfast, and the little one ran forward: "Baby's chair;
mamma's chair; papa's chair!"

"Yes," answered Marcia, so that the servant might hear too. "Papa will soon
be home."

She persuaded herself that he had gone as before for the night, and in this
pretence she talked with the child at the table, and she put aside some of
the breakfast to be kept warm for Bartley. "I don't know just when he may
be in," she explained to the girl. The utterance of her pretence that she
expected him encouraged her, and she went about her work almost cheerfully.

At dinner she said, "Mr. Hubbard must have been called away, somewhere.
We must get his dinner for him when he comes: the things dry up so in the
oven."

She put Flavia to bed early, and then trimmed the fire, and made the parlor
cosey against Bartley's coming. She did not blame him for staying away the
night before; it was a just punishment for her wickedness, and she should
tell him so, and tell him that she knew he never was to blame for anything
about Hannah Morrison. She enacted over and over in her mind the scene of
their reconciliation. In every step on the pavement he approached the door;
at last all the steps died away, and the second night passed.

Her head was light, and her brain confused with loss of sleep. When the
child called her from above, and woke her out of her morning drowse, she
went to the kitchen and begged the servant to give the little one its
breakfast, saying that she was sick and wanted nothing herself. She did not
say anything about Bartley's breakfast, and she would not think anything;
the girl took the child into the kitchen with her, and kept it there all
day.

Olive Halleck came during the forenoon, and Marcia told her that Bartley
had been unexpectedly called away. "To New York," she added, without
knowing why.

"Ben sailed from there to-day," said Olive sadly.

"Yes," assented Marcia.

"We want you to come and take tea with us this evening," Olive began.

"Oh, I can't," Marcia broke in. "I mustn't be away when Bartley gets back."
The thought was something definite in the sea of uncertainty on which she
was cast away; she never afterwards lost her hold of it; she confirmed
herself in it by other inventions; she pretended that he had told her where
he was going, and then that he had written to her. She almost believed
these childish fictions as she uttered them. At the same time, in all her
longing for his return, she had a sickening fear that when he came back he
would keep his parting threat and drive her away: she did not know how he
could do it, but this was what she feared.

She seldom left the house, which at first she kept neat and pretty, and
then let fall into slatternly neglect. She ceased to care for her dress or
the child's; the time came when it seemed as if she could scarcely move in
the mystery that beset her life, and she yielded to a deadly lethargy which
paralyzed all her faculties but the instinct of concealment.

She repelled the kindly approaches of the Hallecks, sometimes sending word
to the door when they came, that she was sick and could not see them;
or when she saw any of them, repeating those hopeless lies concerning
Bartley's whereabouts, and her expectations of his return.

For the time she was safe against all kindly misgivings; but there were
some of Bartley's creditors who grew impatient of his long absence, and
refused to be satisfied with her fables. She had a few dollars left from
some money that her father had given her at home, and she paid these all
out upon the demand of the first-comer. Afterwards, as other bills were
pressed, she could only answer with incoherent promises and evasions that
scarcely served for the moment. The pursuit of these people dismayed her.
It was nothing that certain of them refused further credit; she would have
known, both for herself and her child, how to go hungry and cold; but there
was one of them who threatened her with the law if she did not pay. She did
not know what he could do; she had read somewhere that people who did not
pay their debts were imprisoned, and if that disgrace were all she would
not care. But if the law were enforced against her, the truth would come
out; she would be put to shame before the world as a deserted wife; and
this when Bartley had _not_ deserted her. The pride that had bidden her
heart break in secret rather than suffer this shame even before itself, was
baffled: her one blind device had been concealment, and this poor refuge
was possible no longer. If all were not to know, some one must know.

The law with which she had been threatened might be instant in its
operation; she could not tell. Her mind wavered from fear to fear. Even
while the man stood before her, she perceived the necessity that was upon
her, and when he left her she would not allow herself a moment's delay.

She reached the Events building, in which Mr. Atherton had his office, just
as a lady drove away in her coupé. It was Miss Kingsbury, who made a point
of transacting all business matters with her lawyer at his office, and of
keeping her social relations with him entirely distinct, as she fancied,
by this means. She was only partially successful, but at least she never
talked business with him at her house, and doubtless she would not have
talked anything else with him at his office, but for that increasing
dependence upon him in everything which she certainly would not have
permitted herself if she had realized it. As it was, she had now come to
him in a state of nervous exaltation, which was not business-like. She had
been greatly shocked by Ben Halleck's sudden freak; she had sympathized
with his family till she herself felt the need of some sort of condolence,
and she had promised herself this consolation from Atherton's habitual
serenity. She did not know what to do when he received her with what she
considered an impatient manner, and did not seem at all glad to see
her. There was no reason why he should be glad to see a lady calling on
business, and no doubt he often found her troublesome, but he had never
shown it before. She felt like crying at first; then she passed through an
epoch of resentment, and then through a period of compassion for him. She
ended by telling him with dignified severity that she wanted some money:
they usually made some jokes about her destitution when she came upon that
errand. He looked surprised and vexed, and "I have spent what you gave me
last month," she explained.

"Then you wish to anticipate the interest on your bonds?"

"Certainly not," said Clara, rather sharply. "I wish to have the interest
up to the present time."

"But I told you," said Atherton, and he could not, in spite of himself,
help treating her somewhat as a child, "I told you then that I was paying
you the interest up to the first of November. There is none due now. Didn't
you understand that?"

"No, I didn't understand," answered Clara. She allowed herself to add,
"It is very strange!" Atherton struggled with his irritation, and made no
reply. "I can't be left without money," she continued. "What am I to do
without it?" she demanded with an air of unanswerable argument. "Why, I
_must_ have it!"

"I felt that I ought to understand you fully," said Atherton, with cold
politeness. "It's only necessary to know what sum you require."

Clara flung up her veil and confronted him with an excited face. "Mr.
Atherton, I don't wish a _loan_; I can't _permit_ it; and you know that my
principles are entirely against anticipating interest."

Atherton, from stooping over his table, pencil in hand, leaned back in his
chair, and looked at her with a smile that provoked her: "Then may I ask
what you wish me to do?"

"No! I can't instruct you. My affairs are in your hands. But I must
_say_--" She bit her lip, however, and did not say it. On the contrary she
asked, rather feebly, "Is there nothing due on anything?"

"I went over it with you, last month," said Atherton patiently, "and
explained all the investments. I could sell some stocks, but this election
trouble has disordered everything, and I should have to sell at a heavy
loss. There are your mortgages, and there are your bonds. You can have any
amount of money you want, but you will have to borrow it."

"And that you know I won't do. There should always be a sum of money in the
bank," said Clara decidedly.

"I do my very best to keep a sum there, knowing your theory; but your
practice is against me. You draw too many checks," said Atherton, laughing.

"Very well!" cried the lady, pulling down her veil. "Then I'm to have
nothing?"

"You won't allow yourself to have anything," Atherton began. But she
interrupted him haughtily.

"It is certainly very odd that my affairs should be in such a state that I
can't have all the money of my own that I want, whenever I want it."

Atherton's thin face paled a little more than usual. "I shall be glad to
resign the charge of your affair Miss Kingsbury."

"And I shall accept your resignation," cried Clara, magnificently,
"whenever you offer it." She swept out of the office, and descended to her
coupé like an incensed goddess. She drew the curtains and began to cry.
At her door, she bade the servant deny her to everybody, and went to
bed, where she was visited a little later by Olive Halleck, whom no ban
excluded. Clara lavishly confessed her sin and sorrow. "Why, I _went_
there, more than half, to sympathize with him about Ben; I don't need
any money, just yet; and the first thing I knew, I was accusing him of
neglecting my interests, and I don't know what all! Of course he had to say
he wouldn't have anything more to do with them, and I should have despised
him if he hadn't. And now I don't care what becomes of the property: it's
never been anything but misery to me ever since I had it, and I always knew
it would get me into trouble sooner or later." She whirled her face over
into her pillow, and sobbed, "But I _didn't_ suppose it would ever make me
insult and outrage the best friend I ever had,--and the truest man,--and
the noblest gentleman! Oh, _what_ will he think of me?"

Olive remained sadly quiet, as if but superficially interested in these
transports, and Clara lifted her face again to say in her handkerchief,
"It's a shame, Olive, to burden you with all this at a time when you've
care enough of your own."

"Oh, I'm rather glad of somebody else's care; it helps to take my mind
off," said Olive.

"Then what would you do?" asked Clara, tempted by the apparent sympathy
with her in the effect of her naughtiness.

"You might make a party for him, Clara," suggested Olive, with lack-lustre
irony.

Clara gave way to a loud burst of grief. "Oh, Olive Halleck! I didn't
suppose you could be so cruel!"

Olive rose impatiently. "Then write to him, or go to him and tell him that
you're ashamed of yourself, and ask him to take your property back again."

"Never!" cried Clara, who had listened with fascination. "What would he
think of me?"

"Why need you care? It's purely a matter of business!"

"Yes."

"And you needn't mind what he thinks."

"Of course," admitted Clara, thoughtfully.

"He will naturally despise you," added Olive, "but I suppose he does that,
now."

Clara gave her friend as piercing a glance as her soft blue eyes could
emit, and, detecting no sign of jesting in Olive's sober face, she answered
haughtily, "I don't see what right Mr. Atherton has to despise me!"

"Oh, no! He must admire a girl who has behaved to him as you've done."

Clara's hauteur collapsed, and she began to truckle to Olive. "If he were
_merely_ a business man, I shouldn't mind it; but knowing him socially, as
I do, and as a--friend, and--an acquaintance, that way, I don't see how I
can do it."

"I wonder you didn't think of that before you accused him of fraud and
peculation, and all those things."

"I _didn't_ accuse him of fraud and peculation!" cried Clara, indignantly.

"You said you didn't know what all you'd called him," said Olive, with her
hand on the door.

Clara followed her down stairs. "Well, I shall never do it in the world,"
she said, with reviving hope in her voice.

"Oh, I don't expect you to go to him this morning," said Olive dryly. "That
would be a little _too_ barefaced."

Her friend kissed, her. "Olive Halleck, you're the strangest girl that ever
was. I do believe you'd joke at the point of death! But I'm _so_ glad you
have been perfectly frank with me, and of course it's worth worlds to know
that you think I've behaved horridly, and ought to make _some_ reparation."

"I'm glad you value my opinion, Clara. And if you come to me for frankness,
you can always have all you want; it's a drug in the market with me." She
meagrely returned Clara's embrace, and left her in a reverie of tactless
scheming for the restoration of peace with Mr. Atherton.

Marcia came in upon the lawyer before he had thought, after parting with
Miss Kingsbury, to tell the clerk in the outer office to deny him; but she
was too full of her own trouble to see the reluctance which it tasked all
his strength to quell, and she sank into the nearest chair unbidden. At
sight of her, Atherton became the prey of one of those fantastic repulsions
in which men visit upon women the blame of others' thoughts about them: he
censured her for Halleck's wrong; but in another instant he recognized
his cruelty, and atoned by relenting a little in his intolerance of her
presence. She sat gazing at him with a face of blank misery, to which he
could not refuse the charity of a prompting question: "Is there something I
can do for you, Mrs. Hubbard?"

"Oh, I don't know,--I don't know!" She had a folded paper in her hands,
which lay helpless in her lap. After a moment she resumed, in a hoarse, low
voice: "They have all begun to come for their money, and this one--this one
says he will have the law of me--I don't know what he means--if I don't pay
him."

Marcia could not know how hard Atherton found it to govern the professional
suspicion which sprung up at the question of money. But he overruled his
suspicion by an effort that was another relief to the struggle in which he
was wrenching his mind from Miss Kingsbury's outrageous behavior. "What
have you got there?" he asked gravely, and not unkindly, and being used to
prompt the reluctance of lady clients, he put out his hand for the paper
she held. It was the bill of the threatening creditor, for indefinitely
repeated dozens of tivoli beer.

"Why do they come to _you_ with this?"

"Mr. Hubbard is away."

"Oh, yes. I heard. When do you expect him home?"

"I don't know."

"Where is he?"

She looked at him piteously without speaking.

Atherton stepped to his door, and gave the order forgotten before. Then
he closed the door, and came back to Marcia. "Don't you know where your
husband is, Mrs. Hubbard?"

"Oh, he will come back! He _couldn't_ leave me! He's dead,--I know he's
dead; but he will come back! He only went away for the night, and something
must have happened to him."

The whole tragedy of her life for the past fortnight was expressed in these
wild and inconsistent words; she had not been able to reason beyond the
pathetic absurdities which they involved; they had the effect of assertions
confirmed in the belief by incessant repetition, and doubtless she had
said them to herself a thousand times. Atherton read in them, not only the
confession of her despair, but a prayer for mercy, which it would have
been inhuman to deny, and for the present he left her to such refuge from
herself as she had found in them. He said, quietly, "You had better give me
that paper, Mrs. Hubbard," and took the bill from her. "If the others come
with their accounts again, you must send them to me. When did you say Mr.
Hubbard left home?"

"The night after the election," said Marcia.

"And he didn't say how long he should be gone?" pursued the lawyer, in the
feint that she had known he was going.

"No," she answered.

"He took some things with him?"

"Yes."

"Perhaps you could judge how long he meant to be absent from the
preparation he made?"

"I've never looked to see. I couldn't!"

Atherton changed the line of his inquiry. "Does any one else know of this?"

"No," said Marcia, quickly, "I told Mrs. Halleck and all of them that
he was in New York, and I said that I had heard from him. I came to you
because you were a lawyer, and you would not tell what I told you."

"Yes," said Atherton.

"I want it kept a secret. Oh, do you think he's dead?" she implored.

"No," returned Atherton, gravely, "I don't think he's dead."

"Sometimes it seems to me I could bear it better if I knew he was dead. If
he isn't dead, he's out of his mind! He's out of his mind, don't you think,
and he's wandered off somewhere?"

She besought him so pitifully to agree with her, bending forward and trying
to read the thoughts in his face, that he could not help saying, "Perhaps."

A gush of grateful tears blinded her, but she choked down her sobs.

"I said things to him that night that were enough to drive him crazy. I was
always the one in fault, but he was always the one to make up first, and he
never would have gone away from me if he had known what he was doing! But
he will come back, I know he will," she said, rising. "And oh, you won't
say anything to anybody, will you? And he'll get back before they find out.
I will send those men to you, and Bartley will see about it as soon as he
comes home--"

"Don't go, Mrs. Hubbard," said the lawyer. "I want to speak with you
a little longer." She dropped again in her chair, and looked at him
inquiringly. "Have you written to your father about this?"

"Oh, no," she answered quickly, with an effect of shrinking back into
herself.

"I think you had better do so. You can't tell when your husband will
return, and you can't go on in this way."

"I will never tell _father_," she replied, closing her lips inexorably.

The lawyer forbore to penetrate the family trouble he divined. "Are you all
alone in the house?" he asked.

"The girl is there. And the baby."

"That won't do, Mrs. Hubbard," said Atherton, with a compassionate shake of
the head. "You can't go on living there alone."

"Oh, yes, I can. I'm not afraid to be alone," she returned with the air of
having thought of this.

"But he may be absent some time yet," urged the lawyer; "he may be absent
indefinitely. You must go home to your father and wait for him there."

"I can't do that. He must find me here when he comes," she answered firmly.

"But how will you stay?" pleaded Atherton; he had to deal with an
unreasonable creature who could not be driven, and he must plead. "You have
no money, and how can you live?"

"Oh," replied Marcia, with the air of having thought of this too, "I will
take boarders."

Atherton smiled at the hopeless practicality, and shook his head; but he
did not oppose her directly. "Mrs. Hubbard," he said earnestly, "you have
done well in coming to me, but let me convince you that this is a matter
which can't be kept. It must be known. Before you can begin to help
yourself, you must let others help you. Either you must go home to your
father and let your husband find you there--"

"He must find me here, in our own house."

"Then you must tell your friends here that you don't know where he is, nor
when he will return, and let them advise together as to what can be done.
You must tell the Hallecks--"

"I will _never_ tell them!" cried Marcia. "Let me go! I can starve there
and freeze, and if he finds me dead in the house, none of them shall have
the right to blame him,--to say that he left me,--that he deserted his
little child! Oh! oh! oh! oh! What shall I do?"

The hapless creature shook with the thick-coming sobs that overpowered her
now, and Atherton refrained once more. She did not seem ashamed before
him of the sorrows which he felt it a sacrilege to know, and in a blind
instinctive way he perceived that in proportion as he was a stranger it was
possible for her to bear her disgrace in his presence. He spoke at last
from the hint he found in this fact: "Will you let me mention the matter to
Miss Kingsbury?"

She looked at him with sad intensity in the eyes, as if trying to fathom
any nether thought that he might have. It must have seemed to her at first
that he was mocking her, but his words brought her the only relief from her
self-upbraiding she had known. To suffer kindness from Miss Kingsbury would
be in some sort an atonement to Bartley for the wrong her jealousy had done
him; it would be self-sacrifice for his sake; it would be expiation. "Yes,
tell her," she answered with a promptness whose obscure motive was not
illumined by the flash of passionate pride with which she added, "I shall
not care for _her_."

She rose again, and Atherton did not detain her; but when she had left him
he lost no time in writing to her father the facts of the case as her visit
had revealed them. He spoke of her reluctance to have her situation known
to her family, but assured the Squire that he need have no anxiety about
her for the present. He promised to keep him fully informed in regard to
her, and to telegraph the first news of Mr. Hubbard. He left the Squire to
form his own conjectures, and to take whatever action he thought best. For
his own part, he had no question that Hubbard had abandoned his wife, and
had stolen Halleck's money; and the detectives to whom he went were clear
that it was a case of European travel.



XXXV.


Atherton went from the detectives to Miss Kingsbury, and boldly resisted
the interdict at her door, sending up his name with the message that he
wished to see her immediately on business. She kept him waiting while she
made a frightened toilet, and leaving the letter to him which she had
begun half finished on her desk, she came down to meet him in a flutter of
despondent conjecture. He took her mechanically yielded hand, and seated
himself on the sofa beside her. "I sent word that I had come on business,"
he said, "but it is no affair of yours,"--she hardly knew whether to feel
relieved or disappointed,--"except as you make all unhappy people's affairs
your own."

"Oh!" she murmured in meek protest, and at the same time she remotely
wondered if these affairs were his.

"I came to you for help," he began again, and again she interrupted him in
deprecation.

"You are very good, after--after--what I--what happened,--I'm sure." She
put up her fan to her lips, and turned her head a little aside. "Of course
I shall be glad to help you in anything, Mr. Atherton; you know I always
am."

"Yes, and that gave me courage to come to you, even after the way in which
we parted this morning. I knew you would not misunderstand me"--

"No," said Clara softly, doing her best to understand him.

"Or think me wanting in delicacy--"

"Oh, no, no!"

"If I believed that we need not have any embarrassment in meeting in behalf
of the poor creature who came to see me just after you left me. The fact
is," he went on, "I felt a little freer to promise your interest since I
had no longer any business relation to you, and could rely on your kindness
like--like--any other."

"Yes," assented Clara, faintly; and she forbore to point out to him, as she
might fitly have done, that he had never had the right to advise or direct
her at which he hinted, except as she expressly conferred it from time to
time. "I shall be only too glad--"

"And I will have a statement of your affairs drawn up to-morrow, and sent
to you." Her heart sank; she ceased to move the fan which she had been
slowly waving back and forth before her face. "I was going to set about it
this morning, but Mrs. Hubbard's visit--"

"Mrs. Hubbard!" cried Clara, and a little air of pique qualified her
despair.

"Yes; she is in trouble,--the greatest: her husband has deserted her."

"_Oh_, Mr. Atherton!" Clara's mind was now far away from any concern for
herself. The woman whose husband has deserted her supremely appeals to all
other women. "I can't believe it! What makes you think so?"

"What she concealed, rather than what she told me, I believe," answered
Atherton. He ran over the main points of their interview, and summed up his
own conjectures. "I know from things Halleck has let drop that they haven't
always lived happily together; Hubbard has been speculating with borrowed
money, and he's in debt to everybody. She's been alone in her house for a
fortnight, and she only came to me because people had begun to press her
for money. She's been pretending to the Hallecks that she hears from her
husband, and knows where he is."

"Oh, poor, poor thing!" said Clara, too shocked to say more. "Then they
don't know?"

"No one knows but ourselves. She came to me because I was a comparative
stranger, and it would cost her less to confess her trouble to me than to
them, and she allowed me to speak to you for very much the same reason."

"But I know she dislikes me!"

"So much the better! She can't doubt your goodness--"

"Oh!"

"And if she dislikes you, she can keep her pride better with you."

Clara let her eyes fall, and fingered the edges of her fan. There was
reason in this, and she did not care that the opportunity of usefulness was
personally unflattering, since he thought her capable of rising above the
fact. "What do you want me to do?" she asked, lifting her eyes docilely to
his.

"You must find some one to stay with her, in her house, till she can be
persuaded to leave it, and you must lend her some money till her father can
come to her or write to her. I've just written to him, and I've told her to
send all her bills to me; but I'm afraid she may be in immediate need."

"Terrible!" sighed Clara to whom the destitution of an acquaintance was
appalling after all her charitable knowledge of want and suffering. "Of
course, we mustn't lose a moment," she added; but she lingered in her
corner of the sofa to discuss ways and means with him, and to fathom that
sad enjoyment which comfortable people find in the contemplation of alien
sorrows. It was not her fault if she felt too kindly toward the disaster
that had brought Atherton back to her on the old terms; or if she arranged
her plans for befriending Marcia in her desolation with too buoyant a
cheerfulness. But she took herself to task for the radiant smile she found
on her face, when she ran up stairs and looked into her glass to see how
she looked in parting with Atherton: she said to herself that he would
think her perfectly heartless.

She decided that it would be indecent to drive to Marcia's under the
circumstances, and she walked; though with all the time this gave her for
reflection she had not wholly banished this smile when she looked
into Marcia's woe-begone eyes. But she found herself incapable of
the awkwardnesses she had deliberated, and fell back upon the native
motherliness of her heart, into which she took Marcia with sympathy that
ignored everything but her need of help and pity. Marcia's bruised pride
was broken before the goodness of the girl she had hated, and she
performed her sacrifice to Bartley's injured memory, not with the haughty
self-devotion which she intended should humiliate Miss Kingsbury, but with
the prostration of a woman spent with watching and fasting and despair. She
held Clara away for a moment of scrutiny, and then submitted to the embrace
in which they recognized and confessed all.

It was scarcely necessary for Clara to say that Mr. Atherton had told her;
Marcia already knew that; and Clara became a partisan of her theory of
Bartley's absence almost without an effort, in spite of the facts that
Atherton had suggested to the contrary. "Of _course_! He has wandered off
somewhere, and at soon as he comes to his senses he will hurry home. Why I
was reading of such a case only the other day,--the case of a minister who
wandered off in just the same way, and found himself out in Western New
York somewhere, after he had been gone three mouths."

"Bartley won't be gone three months," protested Marcia.

"Certainly not!" cried Clara, in severe self-rebuke. Then she talked of
his return for a while as if it might be expected any moment. "In the mean
time," she added, "you must stay here; you're quite right about that, too,
but you mustn't stay here alone: he'd be quite as much shocked at that as
if he found you gone when he came back. I'm going to ask you to let my
friend Miss Strong stay with you; and she must pay her board; and you must
let me lend you all the money you need. And, dear,"--Clara dropped her
voice to a lower and gentler note,--"you mustn't try to keep this from your
friends. You must let Mr. Atherton write to your father; you must let me
tell the Hallecks: they'll be hurt if you don't. You needn't be troubled;
of _course_ he wandered off in a temporary hallucination, and nobody will
think differently."

She adopted the fiction of Bartley's aberration with so much fervor that
she even silenced Atherton's injurious theories with it when he came in the
evening to learn the result of her intervention. She had forgotten, or
she ignored, the facts as he had stated them in the morning; she was now
Bartley's valiant champion, as well as the tender protector of Marcia: she
was the equal friend of the whole exemplary Hubbard family.

Atherton laughed, and she asked what he was laughing at.

"Oh," he answered, "at something Ben Halleck once said: a real woman can
make righteousness delicious and virtue piquant."

Clara reflected. "I don't know whether I like that," she said finally.

"No?" said Atherton. "Why not?"

She was serving him with an after-dinner cup of tea, which she had brought
into the drawing-room, and in putting the second lump of sugar into his
saucer she paused again, thoughtfully, holding the little cube in the
tongs. She was rather elaborately dressed for so simple an occasion, and
her silken train coiled itself far out over the mossy depth of the moquette
carpet; the pale blue satin of the furniture, and the delicate white and
gold of the decorations, became her wonderfully.

"I can't say, exactly. It seems depreciatory, somehow, as a generalization.
But a man might say it of the woman he was in love with," she concluded.

"And you wouldn't approve of a man's saying it of the woman his friend was
in love with?" pursued Atherton, taking his cup from her.

"If they were very close friends." She did not know why, but she blushed,
and then grew a little pale.

"I understand what you mean," he said, "and I shouldn't have liked the
speech from another kind of man. But Halleck's innocence characterized it."
He stirred his tea, and then let it stand untasted in his abstraction.

"Yes, he is good," sighed Clara. "If he were not so good, it would be hard
to forgive him for disappointing all their hopes in the way he's done."

"It's the best thing he could have done," said Atherton gravely, even
severely.

"I know you advised it," asserted Clara. "But it's a great blow to them.
How strange that Mr. Hubbard should have disappeared the last night Ben was
at home! I'm glad that he got away without knowing anything about it."

Atherton drank off his tea, and refused a second cup with a gesture of his
hand. "Yes, so am I," he said. "I'm glad of every league of sea he puts
behind him." He rose, as if eager to leave the subject.

Clara rose too, with the patient acquiescence of a woman, and took his hand
proffered in parting. They had certainly talked out, but there seemed no
reason why he should go. He held her hand, while he asked, "How shall I
make my peace with you?"

"My peace? What for?" She flushed joyfully. "I was the one in fault."

He looked at her mystified. "Why, surely, _you_ didn't repeat Halleck's
remark?"

"Oh!" she cried indignantly, withdrawing her hand. "I meant _this morning_.
It doesn't matter," she added. "If you still wish to resign the charge of
my affairs, of course I must submit. But I thought--I thought--" She did
not go on, she was too deeply hurt. Up to this moment she had imagined that
she had befriended Marcia, and taken all that trouble upon herself for
goodness' sake; but now she was ready to upbraid him for ingratitude in not
seeing that she had done it for his sake. "You can send me the statement,
and then--and then--I don't know what I _shall_ do! _Why_ do you mind what
I said? I've often said quite as much before, and you know that I didn't
mean it. I want you to take my property back again, and never to mind
anything I say: I'm not worth minding." Her intended upbraiding had come
to this pitiful effect of self-contempt, and her hand somehow was in his
again. "Do take it back!"

"If I do that," said Atherton, gravely, "I must make my conditions," and
now they sat down together on the sofa from which he had risen. "I can't be
subjected again to your--disappointments,"--he arrested with a motion of
his hand the profuse expression of her penitence and good intentions,--"and
I've felt for a long time that this was no attitude for your attorney. You
ought to have the right to question and censure; but I confess I can't
grant you this. I've allowed myself to make your interests too much my own
in everything to be able to bear it. I've thought several times that I
ought to give up the trust; but it seemed like giving up so much more, that
I never had the courage to do it in cold blood. This morning you gave me my
chance to do it in hot blood, and if I resume it, I must make my terms."

It seemed a long speech to Clara, who sometimes thought she knew whither it
tended, and sometimes not. She said in a low voice, "Yes."

"I must be relieved," continued Atherton, "of the sense I've had that
it was indelicate in me to keep it, while I felt as I've grown to
feel--towards you." He stopped: "If I take it back, you must come with it!"
he suddenly concluded.

The inconsistency of accepting these conditions ought to have struck a
woman who had so long imagined herself the chase of fortune-hunters. But
Clara apparently found nothing alarming in the demand of a man who openly
acted upon his knowledge of what could only have been matter of conjecture
to many suitors she had snubbed. She found nothing incongruous in the
transaction, and she said, with as tremulous breath and as swift a pulse as
if the question had been solely of herself, "I accept--the conditions."

In the long, happy talk that lasted till midnight, they did not fail to
recognize that, but for their common pity of Marcia, they might have
remained estranged, and they were decently ashamed of their bliss when they
thought of misery like hers. When Atherton rose to bid Clara good night,
Marcia was still watching for Bartley, indulging for the last time the
folly of waiting for him as if she definitely expected him that night.

Every night since he disappeared, she had kept the lights burning in the
parlor and hall, and drowsed before the fire till the dawn drove her to a
few hours of sleep in bed. But with the coming of the stranger who was to
be her companion, she must deny herself even this consolation, and openly
accept the fact that she no longer expected Bartley at any given time.
She bitterly rebelled at the loss of her solitude, in which she could be
miserable in whatever way her sorrow prompted, and the pangs with which she
had submitted to Miss Kingsbury's kindness grew sharper hour by hour
till she maddened in a frenzy of resentment against the cruelty of her
expiation. She longed for the day to come that she might go to her,
and take back her promises and her submission, and fling her insulting
good-will in her face. She said to herself that no one should enter her
door again till Bartley opened it; she would die there in the house, she
and her baby, and as she stood wringing her hands and moaning over the
sleeping little one, a hideous impulse made her brain reel; she wished to
look if Bartley had left his pistol in its place; a cry for help against
herself broke from her; she dropped upon her knees.

The day came, and the hope and strength which the mere light so strangely
brings to the sick in spirit as well as the sick in body visited Marcia.
She abhorred the temptation of the night like the remembrance of a wicked
dream, and she went about with a humble and grateful prayer--to something,
to some one--in her heart. Her housewifely pride stirred again: that girl
should not think she was a slattern; and Miss Strong, when she preceded
her small trunk in the course of the forenoon, found the parlor and the
guest-chamber, which she was to have, swept, and dusted, and set in perfect
order by Marcia's hands. She had worked with fury, and kept her heart-ache
still, but it began again at sight of the girl. Fortunately, the
conservatory pupil had embraced with even more than Miss Kingsbury's ardor
the theory of Bartley's aberration, and she met Marcia with a sympathy in
her voice and eyes that could only have come from sincere conviction. She
was a simple country thing, who would never be a prima donna; but the
overflowing sentimentality which enabled her to accept herself at the
estimate of her enthusiastic fellow-villagers made her of far greater
comfort to Marcia than the sublimest musical genius would have done. She
worshipped the heroine of so tragic a fact, and her heart began to go out
to her in honest helpfulness from the first. She broke in upon the monotony
of Marcia's days with the offices and interests of wholesome commonplace,
and exorcised the ghostly silence with her first stroke on the
piano,--which Bartley had bought on the instalment plan and had not yet
paid for.

In fine, life adjusted itself with Marcia to the new conditions, as it does
with women less wofully widowed by death, who promise themselves reunion
with their lost in another world, and suffer through the first weeks and
days in the hope that their parting will be for but days or weeks, and then
gradually submit to indefinite delay. She prophesied Bartley's return, and
fixed it in her own mind for this hour and that. "Now, in the morning, I
shall wake and find him standing by the bed. No, at night he will come in
and surprise us at dinner." She cheated herself with increasing faith at
each renewal of her hopes. When she ceased to formulate them at last, it
was because they had served their end, and left her established, if not
comforted, in the superstition by which she lived. His return at any
hour or any moment was the fetish which she let no misgiving blaspheme;
everything in her of woman and of wife consecrated it. She kept the child
in continual remembrance of him by talking of him, and by making her
recognize the photographs in which Bartley had abundantly perpetuated
himself; at night, when she folded the little one's hands for prayer, she
made her pray God to take care of poor papa and send him home soon to
mamma. She was beginning to canonize him.

Her father came to see her as soon as he thought it best after Atherton's
letter; and the old man had to endure talk of Bartley to which all her
former praises were as refreshing shadows of defamation. She required him
to agree with everything she said, and he could not refuse; she reproached
him for being with herself the cause of all Bartley's errors, and he had to
bear it without protest. At the end he could say nothing but "Better come
home with me, Marcia," and he suffered in meekness the indignation with
which she rebuked him: "I will stay in Bartley's house till he comes back
to me. If he is dead, I will die here."

The old man had satisfied himself that Bartley had absconded in his own
rascally right mind, and he accepted with tacit grimness the theory of the
detectives that he had not gone to Europe alone. He paid back the money
which Bartley had borrowed from Halleck, and he set himself as patiently
as he could to bear with Marcia's obstinacy. It was a mania which must be
indulged for the time, and he could only trust to Atherton to keep
him advised concerning her. When he offered her money at parting, she
hesitated. But she finally took it, saying, "Bartley will pay it back,
every cent, as soon as he gets home. And if," she added, "he doesn't get
back soon, I will take some other boarders and pay it myself."

He could see that she was offended with him for asking her to go home. But
she was his girl; he only pitied her. He shook hands with her as usual, and
kissed her with the old stoicism; but his lips, set to fierceness by the
life-long habit of sarcasm, trembled as he turned away. She was eager to
have him go; for she had given him Miss Strong's room, and had taken the
girl into her own, and Bartley would not like it if he came back and found
her there.

Bartley's disappearance was scarcely a day's wonder with people outside
his own circle in that time of anxiety for a fair count in Louisiana and
Florida, and long before the Returning Boards had partially relieved the
tension of the public mind by their decision he had quite dropped out of
it. The reporters who called at his house to get the bottom facts in the
case, adopted Marcia's theory, given them by Miss Strong, and whatever were
their own suspicions or convictions, paragraphed him with merciful brevity
as having probably wandered away during a temporary hallucination. They
spoke of the depression of spirits which many of his friends had observed
in him, and of pecuniary losses, as the cause. They mentioned his possible
suicide only to give the report the authoritative denial of his family; and
they added, that the case was in the hands of the detectives, who believed
themselves in possession of important clews. The detectives in fact
remained constant to their original theory, that Bartley had gone to
Europe, and they were able to name with reasonable confidence the person
with whom he had eloped. But these were matters hushed up among the force
and the press. In the mean time, Bartley had been simultaneously seen at
Montreal and Cincinnati, at about the same time that an old friend had
caught a glimpse of him on a train bound westward from Chicago.

So far as the world was concerned, the surmise with which Marcia saved
herself from final despair was the only impression that even vaguely
remained of the affair. Her friends, who had compassionately acquiesced in
it at first, waited for the moment when they could urge her to relinquish
it and go home to her father; but while they waited, she gathered strength
to establish herself immovably in it, and to shape her life more and more
closely about it. She had no idea, no instinct, but to stay where he had
left her till he came back. She opposed this singly and solely against
all remonstrance, and treated every suggestion to the contrary as an
instigation to crime. Her father came from time to time during the winter
to see her, but she would never go home with him even for a day. She put
her plan in force; she took other boarders: other girl students like Miss
Strong, whom her friends brought her when they found that it was useless
to oppose her and so began to abet her; she worked hard, and she actually
supported herself at last in a frugal independence. Her father consulted
with Atherton and the Hallecks; he saw that she was with good and faithful
friends, and he submitted to what he could not help. When the summer came,
he made a last attempt to induce her to go home with him. He told her that
her mother wished to see her. She would not understand. "I'll come," she
said, "if mother gets seriously sick. But I can't go home for the summer.
If I hadn't been at home last summer, _he_ would never have got into that
way, and _it_ would never have happened."

She went home at last, in obedience to a peremptory summons; but her mother
was too far gone to know her when she came. Her quiet, narrow life had
grown colder and more inward to the end, and it passed without any apparent
revival of tenderness for those once dear to her; the funeral publicity
that followed seemed a final touch of the fate by which all her preferences
had been thwarted in the world.

Marcia stayed only till she could put the house in order after they had
laid her mother to rest among the early reddening sumacs under the hot
glare of the August sun; and when she came away, she brought her father
with her to Boston, where he spent his days as he might, taking long and
aimless walks, devouring heaps of newspapers, rusting in idleness, and
aging fast, as men do in the irksomeness of disuse.

Halleck's father was beginning to show his age, too; and Halleck's mother
lived only in her thoughts of him, and her hopes of his return; but he
did not even speak of this in his letters to them. He said very little of
himself, and they could merely infer that the experiment to which he had
devoted himself was becoming less and less satisfactory. Their sense of
this added its pang to their unhappiness in his absence.

One day Marcia said to Olive Halleck, "Has any one noticed that you are
beginning to look like your sisters?"

"_I've_ noticed it," answered the girl. "I always _was_ an old maid, and
now I'm beginning to show it."

Marcia wondered if she had not hurt Olive's feelings; but she would never
have known how to excuse herself; and latterly she had been growing more
and more like her father in certain traits. Perhaps her passion for Bartley
had been the one spring of tenderness in her nature, and, if ever it were
spent, she would stiffen into the old man's stern aridity.



XXXVI.


It was nearly two years after Atherton's marriage that Halleck one day
opened the door of the lawyer's private office, and, turning the key in the
lock, limped forward to where the latter was sitting at his desk. Halleck
was greatly changed: the full beard that he had grown scarcely hid the
savage gauntness of his face; but the change was not so much in lines and
contours as in that expression of qualities which we call looks.

"Well, Atherton!"

"Halleck! _You_!"

The friends looked at each other; and Atherton finally broke from his amaze
and offered his hand, with an effect, even then, of making conditions. But
it was Halleck who was the first to speak again.

"How _is_ she? Is she well? Is she still here? Have they heard anything
from him yet?"

"No," said Atherton, answering the last question with the same provisional
effect as before.

"Then he is _dead_. That's what I knew; that's what I _said_! And here I
am. The fight is over, and that's the end of it. I'm beaten."

"You look it," said Atherton, sadly.

"Oh, yes; I look it. That's the reason I can afford to be frank, in coming
back to my friends. I knew that with this look in my face I should make my
own welcome; and it's cordial even beyond my expectations."

"I'm not glad to see you, Halleck," said Atherton. "For your own sake I
wish you were at the other end of the world."

"Oh, I know that. How are my people? Have you seen my father lately? Or my
mother? Or--Olive?" A pathetic tremor shook his voice.

"Why, haven't _you_ seen them yet?" demanded Atherton.

Halleck laughed cynically. "My dear friend, my steamer arrived this
morning, and I'm just off the New York train. I've hurried to your office
in all the impatience of friendship. I'm very lucky to find you here so
late in the day! You can take me home to dinner, and let your domestic
happiness preach to me. Come, I rather like the notion of that!"

"Halleck," said Atherton, without heeding his banter, "I wish you would go
away again! No one knows you are here, you say, and no one need ever know
it."

Halleck set his lips and shook his head, with a mocking smile. "I'm
surprised at you, Atherton, with your knowledge of human nature. I've
come to stay; you must know that. You must know that I had gone through
everything before I gave up, and that I haven't the strength to begin the
struggle over again. I tell you I'm beaten, and I'm glad of it; for there
is rest in it. You would waste your breath, if you talked to me in the old
way; there's nothing in me to appeal to, any more. If I was wrong--But I
don't admit, any more, that I was wrong: by heaven, I was _right_!"

"You _are_ beaten, Halleck," said Atherton sorrowfully. He pushed himself
back in his chair, and clasped his hands together behind his head, as his
habit was in reasoning with obstinate clients. "What do you propose to do?"

"I propose to stay."

"What for?"

"What for? Till I can prove that he is dead."

"And then?"

"Then I shall be free to ask her." He added angrily, "You know what I've
come back for: why do you torment me with these questions? I did what I
could; I ran away. And the last night I saw her, I thrust her back into
that hell she called her home, and I told her that no man could be her
refuge from that devil, her husband,--when she had begged me in her
mortal terror to go in with her, and save her from him. _That_ was the
recollection I had to comfort me when I tried to put her out of my
mind,--out of my soul! When I heard that he was gone, I respected her days
of mourning. God knows how I endured it, now it's over; but I did endure
it. I waited, and here I am. And you ask me to go away again! Ah!" He
fetched his breath through his set teeth, and struck his fist on his knee.
"He is _dead_! And now, if she will, she can marry me. Don't look at me as
if I had killed him! There hasn't been a time in these two infernal years
when I wouldn't have given my life to save his--for _her_ sake. I know
that, and that gives me courage, it gives me hope."

"But if he isn't dead?"

"Then he has abandoned her, and she has the right to be free: she can get a
divorce!"

"Oh," said Atherton, compassionately, "has that poison got into you,
Halleck? You might ask her, if she were a widow, to marry you; but how will
you ask her, if she's still a wife, to get a divorce and then marry you?
How will you suggest that to a woman whose constancy to her mistake has
made her sacred to you?" Halleck seemed about to answer; but he only
panted, dry-lipped and open-mouthed, and Atherton continued: "You would
have to corrupt her soul first. I don't know what change you've made in
yourself during these two years; you look like a desperate and defeated
man, but you don't look like _that_. You don't _look_ like one of those
scoundrels who lure women from their duty, ruin homes, and destroy society,
not in the old libertine fashion in which the seducer had at least the
grace to risk his life, but safely, smoothly, under the shelter of our
infamous laws. Have you really come back here to give your father's honest
name, and the example of a man of your own blameless life, in support of
conditions that tempt people to marry with a mental reservation, and that
weaken every marriage bond with the guilty hope of escape whenever a fickle
mind, or secret lust, or wicked will may dictate? Have you come to join
yourself to those miserable spectres who go shrinking through the world,
afraid of their own past, and anxious to hide it from those they hold dear;
or do you propose to defy the world, to help form within it the community
of outcasts with whom shame is not shame, nor dishonor, dishonor? How will
you like the society of those uncertain men, those certain women?"

"You are very eloquent," said Halleck, "but I ask you to observe that these
little abstractions don't interest me. I've a concrete purpose, and I
can't contemplate the effect of other people's actions upon American
civilization. When you ask me to believe that I oughtn't to try to rescue a
woman from the misery to which a villain has left her, simply because some
justice of the peace consecrated his power over her, I decline to be such a
fool. I use my reason, and I see who it was that defiled and destroyed that
marriage, and I know that she is as free in the sight of God as if he had
never lived. If the world doesn't like my open shame, let it look to its
own secret shame,--the marriages made and maintained from interest, and
ambition, and vanity, and folly. I will take my chance with the men and
women who have been honest enough to own their mistake, and to try to
repair it, and I will preach by my life that marriage has no sanctity but
what love gives it, and that when love ceases marriage ceases, before
heaven. If the laws have come to recognize that, by whatever fiction, so
much the better for the laws!" Halleck rose.

"Well, then," cried Atherton, rising, too, "you shall meet me on your own
ground! This poor creature is constant in every breath she draws to the
ruffian who has abandoned her. I must believe, since you say it, that you
are ready to abet her in getting a divorce, even one of those divorces
that are 'obtained without publicity, and for any cause,'"--Halleck
winced,--"that you are willing to put your sisters to shame before the
world, to break your mother's heart, and your father's pride,--to insult
the ideal of goodness that she herself has formed of you; but how will you
begin? The love on her part, at least, hasn't ceased: has the marriage?"

"She shall tell me," answered Halleck. He left Atherton without another
word, and in resentment that effaced all friendship between them, though
after this parting they still kept up its outward forms, and the Athertons
took part in the rejoicings with which the Hallecks celebrated Ben's
return. His meeting with the lawyer was the renewal of the old conflict on
terms of novel and hopeless degradation. He had mistaken for peace that
exhaustion of spirit which comes to a man in battling with his conscience;
he had fancied his struggle over, and he was to learn now that its anguish
had just begun. In that delusion his love was to have been a law to itself,
able to loose and to bind, and potent to beat down all regrets, all doubts,
all fears, that questioned it; but the words with which Marcia met him
struck his passion dumb.

"Oh, I am so glad you have come lack!" she said. "Now I know that we can
find him. You were such friends with him, and you understood him so well,
that you will know just what to do. Yes, we shall find him now, and we
should have found him long ago if you had been here. Oh, if you had never
gone away! But I can never be grateful enough for what you said to me that
night when you would not come in with me. The words have rung in my ears
ever since; they showed that you had faith in him, more faith than I had,
and I've made them my rule and my guide. No one has been my refuge from
him, and no one ever shall be. And I thank you--yes, I thank you on my
bended knees--for making me go into the house alone; it's my one comfort
that I had the strength to come back to him, and let him do anything he
would to me, after I had treated him so; but I've never pretended it was
my own strength. I have always told everybody that the strength came from
you!"

Halleck had brought Olive with him; she and Marcia's father listened to
these words with the patience of people who had heard them many times
before; but at the end Olive glanced at Halleck's downcast face with fond
pride in the satisfaction she imagined they must give him. The old man
ruminated upon a bit of broom straw, and absently let the little girl catch
by his hands, as she ran to and fro between him and her mother while her
mother talked. Halleck made a formless sound in his throat, for answer, and
Marcia went on.

"I've got a new plan now, but it seems as if father took a pleasure in
discouraging _all_ my plans. I _know_ that Bartley's shut up, somewhere, in
some asylum, and I want them to send detectives to all the asylums in the
United States and in Canada,--you can't tell how far off he would wander
in that state,--and inquire if any stray insane person has been brought to
them. Doesn't it seem to you as if that would be the right way to find him?
I want to talk it all over with you, Mr. Halleck, for I know _you_ can
sympathize with me; and if need be I will go to the asylums myself; I will
walk to them, I will crawl to them on my knees! When I think of him shut up
there among those raving maniacs, and used as they use people in some of
the asylums--Oh, oh, oh, oh!"

She broke out into sobs, and caught her little girl to her breast. The
child must have been accustomed to her mother's tears; she twisted her head
round, and looked at Halleck with a laughing face.

Marcia dried her eyes, and asked, with quivering lips, "Isn't she like
him?"

"Yes," replied Halleck huskily.

"She has his long eyelashes exactly, and his hair and complexion, hasn't
she?"

The old man sat chewing his broom straw in silence; but when Marcia left
the room to get Bartley's photograph, so that Halleck might see the child's
resemblance to him, her father looked at Halleck from under his beetling
brows: "I don't think we need trouble the _asylums_ much for Bartley
Hubbard. But if it was to search the States prisons and the jails, the
rum-holes and the gambling-hells, or if it was to dig up the scoundrels who
have been hung under assumed names during the last two years, I should have
some hopes of identifying him."

Marcia came back, and the old man sat in cast-iron quiet, as if he had
never spoken; it was clear that whatever hate he felt for Bartley he spared
her; and that if he discouraged her plans, as she said, it was because they
were infected by the craze in which she canonized Bartley.

"You see how she is," said Olive, when they came away.

"Yes, yes, yes," Halleck desolately assented.

"Sometimes she seems to me just like a querulous, vulgar, middle-aged woman
in her talk; she repeats herself in the same scolding sort of way; and
she's so eager to blame somebody besides Bartley for Bartley's wickedness
that, when she can't punish herself, she punishes her father. She's
merciless to that wretched old man, and he's wearing his homesick life
out here in the city for her sake. You heard her just now, about his
discouraging her plans?"

"Yes," said Halleck, as before.

"She's grown commoner and narrower, but it's hardly her fault, poor thing,
and it seems terribly unjust that she should be made so by what she has
suffered. But that's just the way it has happened. She's so undisciplined,
that she couldn't get any good out of her misfortunes; she's only got harm:
they've made her selfish, and there seems to be nothing left of what she
was two years ago but her devotion to that miserable wretch. You mustn't
let it turn you against her, Ben; you mustn't forget what she might have
been. She had a rich nature; but how it's been wasted, and turned back upon
itself! Poor, untrained, impulsive, innocent creature,--my heart aches for
her! It's been hard to bear with her at times, terribly hard, and you'll
find it so, Ben. But you _must_ bear with her. The awfulest thing about
people in trouble is that they are such _bores_; they tire you to death.
But you'll only have to stand her praises of what Bartley was, and we had
to stand them, and her hopes of what you would be if you were only at home,
besides. I don't know what all she expects of you; but you must try not to
disappoint her; she worships the ground you tread on, and I really think
she believes you can do anything you will, just because you're good."

Halleck listened in silence. He was indeed helpless to be otherwise than
constant. With shame and grief in his heart, he could only vow her there
the greater fealty because of the change he found in her.

He was doomed at every meeting to hear her glorify a man whom he believed a
heartless traitor, to plot with her for the rescue from imaginary captivity
of the wretch who had cruelly forsaken her. He actually took some of the
steps she urged; he addressed inquiries to the insane asylums, far and
near; and in these futile endeavors, made only with the desire of failure,
his own reason seemed sometimes to waver. She insisted that Atherton should
know all the steps they were taking; and his sense of his old friend's
exact and perfect knowledge of his motives was a keener torture than even
her father's silent scorn of his efforts, or the worship in which his own
family held him for them.



XXXVII.


Halleck had come home in broken health, and had promised his family, with
the self-contempt that depraves, not to go away again, since the change had
done him no good. There was no talk for the present of his trying to do
anything but to get well; and for a while, under the strong excitement, he
seemed to be better. But suddenly he failed; he kept his room, and then he
kept his bed; and the weeks stretched into months before he left it.

When the spring weather came, he was able to go out again, and he spent
most of his time in the open air, feeling every day a fresh accession of
strength. At the end of one long April afternoon, he walked home with
a light heart, whose right to rejoice he would not let his conscience
question. He had met Marcia in the Public Garden, where they sat down on a
bench and talked, while her father and the little girl wandered away in the
restlessness of age and the restlessness of childhood.

"We are going home to Equity this summer," she said, "and perhaps we shall
not come back. No, we shall not come back. _I have given up_. I have
waited, hoping--hoping. But now I know that it is no use waiting any
longer: _he is dead_." She spoke in tearless resignation, and the peace of
accepted widowhood seemed to diffuse itself around her.

Her words repeated themselves to Halleck, as he walked homeward. He found
the postman at the door with a newspaper, which he took from him with a
smile at its veteran appearance, and its probable adventures in reaching
him. The wrapper seemed to have been several times slipped off, and then
slit up; it was tied with a string, now, and was scribbled with rejections
in the hands of various Hallocks and Halletts, one of whom had finally
indorsed upon it, "Try 97 Rumford Street." It was originally addressed, as
he made out, to "Mr. B. Halleck, Boston, Mass.," and he carried it to his
room before he opened it, with a careless surmise as to its interest for
him. It proved to be a flimsy, shabbily printed country newspaper, with an
advertisement marked in one corner.

    State of Indiana, Tecumseh County

    In Tecumseh Circuit Court, April Term, 1879.

    BARTLEY J. HUBBARD

    vs.

    MARCIA G. HUBBARD.

    Divorce. No. 5793.

    It appearing by affidavit this day filed in the office of the Clerk of
    the Tecumseh Circuit Court, that Marcia G. Hubbard, defendant in the
    above entitled action for divorce on account of abandonment and gross
    neglect of duty, is a non-resident of the State of Indiana, notice of
    the pendency of such action is therefore hereby given said defendant
    above named, and that the same will be called for answer on the 11th
    day of April, 1879, the same being the 3d judicial day of the April
    term of said court, for said year, which said term of said court will
    begin on the first Monday in April, 1879, and will be held at the Court
    House, in the town of Tecumseh, in said County and State, said 11th day
    of April, 1879, being the time fixed by said plaintiff by indorsement
    on his complaint, at which said time said defendant is required to
    answer herein.

    Witness my hand and the seal of the said Court, this 4th day of March,
    1879.

    AUGUSTUS H. HAWKINS,

    Clerk.

    SEAL

    Milikin & Ayres, Att'ys for Plff.

Halleck read this advertisement again and again, with a dull, mechanical
action of the brain. He saw the familiar names, but they were hopelessly
estranged by their present relation to each other; the legal jargon reached
no intelligence in him that could grasp its purport.

When his daze began to yield, he took evidence of his own reality by some
such tests as one might in waking from a long faint. He looked at his
hands, his feet; he rose and looked at his face in the glass. Turning
about, he saw the paper where he had left it on the table; it was no
illusion. He picked up the cover from the floor, and scanned it anew,
trying to remember the handwriting on it, to make out who had sent this
paper to him, and why. Then the address seemed to grow into something
different under his eye: it ceased to be his name; he saw now that the
paper was directed to Mrs. B. Hubbard, and that by a series of accidents
and errors it had failed to reach her in its wanderings, and by a final
blunder had fallen into his hands.

Once solved, it was a very simple affair, and he had now but to carry it to
her; that was very simple, too. Or he might destroy it; this was equally
simple. Her words repeated themselves once more: "I have given up. He is
dead." Why should he break the peace she had found, and destroy her last
sad illusion? Why should he not spare her the knowledge of this final
wrong, and let the merciful injustice accomplish itself? The questions
seemed scarcely to have any personal concern for Halleck; his temptation
wore a heavenly aspect. It softly pleaded with him to forbear, like
something outside of himself. It was when he began to resist it that he
found it the breath in his nostrils, the blood in his veins. Then the mask
dropped, and the enemy of souls put forth his power against this weak
spirit, enfeebled by long strife and defeat already acknowledged.

At the end Halleck opened his door, and called, "Olive, Olive!" in a voice
that thrilled the girl with strange alarm where she sat in her own room.
She came running, and found him clinging to his doorpost, pale and
tremulous. "I want you--want you to help me," he gasped. "I want to show
you something--Look here!"

He gave her the paper, which he had kept behind him, clutched fast in his
hand as if he feared it might somehow escape him at last, and staggered
away to a chair.

His sister read the notice. "Oh, Ben!" She dropped her hands with the paper
in them before her, a gesture of helpless horror and pity, and looked at
him. "Does _she_ know it? Has she seen it?"

"No one knows it but you and I. The paper was left here for me by mistake.
I opened it before I saw that it was addressed to her."

He panted forth these sentences in an exhaustion that would have terrified
her, if she had not been too full of indignant compassion for Marcia to
know anything else. She tried to speak.

"Don't you understand, Olive? This is the notice that the law requires she
shall have to come and defend her cause, and it has been sent by the clerk
of the court, there, to the address that villain must have given in the
knowledge that it could reach her only by one chance in ten thousand."

"And it has come to you! Oh, Ben! Who sent it to _you_?" The brother and
sister looked at each other, but neither spoke the awestricken thought that
was in both their hearts. "Ben," she cried in a solemn ecstasy of love and
pride, "I would rather be you this minute than any other man in the world!"

"Don't!" pleaded Halleck. His head dropped, and then he lifted it by a
sudden impulse. "Olive!"--But the impulse failed, and he only said, "I
want you to go to Atherton with me. We mustn't lose time. Have Cyrus get a
carriage. Go down and tell them we're going out. I'll be ready as soon as
you are."

But when she called to him from below that the carriage had come and she
was waiting, he would have refused to go with her if he durst. He no longer
wished to keep back the fact, but he felt an invalid's weariness of it, a
sick man's inadequacy to the farther demands it should make upon him. He
crept slowly down the stairs, keeping a tremulous hold upon the rail; and
he sank with a sigh against the carriage cushions, answering Olive's eager
questions and fervid comments with languid monosyllables.

They found the Athertons at coffee, and Clara would have them come to the
dining-room and join them. Halleck refused the coffee, and while Olive told
what had happened he looked listlessly about the room, aware of a perverse
sympathy with Bartley, from Bartley's point of view: Bartley might never
have gone wrong if he had had all that luxury; and why should he not have
had it, as well as Atherton? What right had the untempted prosperity of
such a man to judge the guilt of such men as himself and Bartley Hubbard?

Olive produced the newspaper from her lap, where she kept both hands upon
it, and opened it to the advertisement in dramatic corroboration of what
she had been telling Atherton. He read it and passed it to Clara.

"When did this come to you?"

Olive answered for him. "This evening,--just now. Didn't I say that?"

"No," said Atherton; and he added to Halleck, gently: "I beg your pardon.
Did you notice the dates?"

"Yes," answered Halleck, with cold refusal of Atherton's tone of
reparation.

"The cause is set for hearing on the 11th," said Atherton. "This is the
8th. The time is very short."

"It's long enough," said Halleck, wearily.

"Oh, telegraph!" cried Clara. "Telegraph them instantly that she never
dreamt of leaving him! Abandonment! Oh, if they only knew how she had been
slaving her lingers off for the last two years to keep a home for him to
come back to, they'd give _her_ the divorce!"

Atherton smiled and turned to Halleck: "Do you know what their law is, now?
It was changed two years ago."

"Yes," said Halleck, replying to the question Atherton had asked and the
subtler question he had looked, "I have read up the whole subject since I
came home. The divorce is granted only upon proof, even when the defendant
fails to appear, and if this were to go against us,"--he instinctively
identified himself with Marcia's cause,--"we can have the default set
aside, and a new trial granted, for cause shown."

The women listened in awe of the legal phrases; but when Atherton rose, and
asked, "Is your carriage here?" his wife sprang to her feet.

"Why, where are you going?" she demanded, anxiously.

"Not to Indiana, immediately," answered her husband. "We're first going to
Clover Street, to see Squire Gaylord and Mrs. Hubbard. Better let me take
the paper, dear," he said, softly withdrawing it from her hands.

"Oh, it's a cruel, cruel law!" she moaned, deprived of this moral support.
"To suppose that such a notice as this is sufficient! Women couldn't have
made such a law."

"No, women only profit by such laws after they're made: they work both
ways. But it's not such a bad law, as divorce laws go. We do worse, now, in
some New England States."

They found the Squire alone in the parlor, and, with a few words of
explanation, Atherton put the paper in his hands, and he read the notice in
emotionless quiet. Then he took off his spectacles, and shut them in their
case, which he put back into his waistcoat pocket. "This is all right," he
said. He cleared his throat, and, lifting the fierce glimmer of his eyes to
Atherton's, he asked, drily, "What is the law, at present?"

Atherton briefly recapitulated the points as he had them from Halleck.

"That's good," said the old man. "We will fight this, gentlemen." He rose,
and from his gaunt height looked down on both of them, with his sinuous
lips set in a bitter smile. "Bartley must have been disappointed when he
found a divorce so hard to get in Indiana. He must have thought that the
old law was still in force there. He's not the fellow to swear to a lie if
he could help it; but I guess he expects to get this divorce by perjury."

Marcia was putting little Flavia to bed. She heard the talking below;
she thought she heard Bartley's name. She ran to the stairs, and came
hesitantly down, the old wild hope and wild terror fluttering her pulse and
taking her breath. At sight of the three men, apparently in council, she
crept toward them, holding out her hands before her like one groping his
way. "What--what is it?" She looked from Atherton's face to her father's;
the old man stopped, and tried to smile reassuringly; he tried to speak;
Atherton turned away.

It was Halleck who came forward, and took her wandering hands. He held them
quivering in his own, and said gravely and steadily, using her name for the
first time in the deep pity which cast out all fear and shame, "Marcia, we
have found your husband."

"Dead?" she made with her lips.

"He is alive," said Halleck. "There is something in this paper for you to
see,--something you _must_ see--"

"I can bear anything if he is not dead. Where--what is it? Show it to me--"
The paper shook in the hands which Halleck released; her eyes strayed
blindly over its columns; he had to put his finger on the place before she
could find it. Then her tremor ceased, and she seemed without breath or
pulse while she read it through. She fetched a long, deep sigh, and passed
her hand over her eyes, as if to clear them; staying herself unconsciously
against Halleck's breast, and laying her trembling arm along his arm till
her fingers knit themselves among his fingers, she read it a second time
and a third. Then she dropped the paper, and turned to look up at him.
"Why!" she cried, as if she had made it out at last, while an awful, joyful
light of hope flashed into her face. "_It is a mistake_! Don't you see? He
thinks that I never came back! He thinks that I meant to abandon him. That
I--that I--But you _know_ that I came back,--you came back _with_ me! Why,
I wasn't gone an hour,--a _half_-hour, hardly. Oh, Bartley, poor Bartley!
He thought I could leave him, and take his child from him; that I could
be so wicked, so heartless--Oh, no, no, no! Why, I only stayed away that
little time because I was _afraid_ to go back! Don't you remember how I
told you I was afraid, and wanted you to come in with me?" Her exaltation
broke in a laugh. "But we can explain it now, and it will be all right. He
will see--he will understand--I will tell him just how it was--Oh, Flavia,
Flavia, we've found papa, we've found papa! Quick!"

She whirled away toward the stairs, but her father caught her by the arm.
"Marcia!" he shouted, in his old raucous voice, "You've got to understand!
This"--he hesitated, as if running over all terms of opprobrium in his
mind, and he resumed as if he had found them each too feeble--"_Bartley_
hasn't acted under any mistake."

He set the facts before her with merciless clearness, and she listened with
an audible catching of the breath at times, while she softly smoothed her
forehead with her left hand. "I don't believe it," she said when he had
ended. "Write to him, tell him what I say, and you will see."

The old man uttered something between a groan and a curse. "Oh, you poor,
crazy child! Can nothing make you understand that Bartley wants to get rid
of you, and that he's just as ready for one lie as another? He thinks
he can make out a case of abandonment with the least trouble, and so he
accuses you of that, but he'd just as soon accuse you of anything else.
_Write_ to him? You've got to _go_ to him! You've got to go out there and
fight him in open court, with facts and witnesses. Do you suppose Bartley
Hubbard wants any explanation from you? Do you think he's been waiting
these two years to hear that you didn't really abandon him, but came back
to this house an hour after you left it, and that you've waited for him
here ever since? When he knows that, will he withdraw this suit of his and
come home? He'll want the proof, and the way to do is to go out there and
let him have it. If I had him on the stand for five minutes," said the
old man between his set teeth,--"_just five minutes_,--I'd undertake to
convince him from his own lips that he was wrong about you! But I am afraid
he wouldn't mind a letter! You think I say so because I hate him; and you
don't believe me. Well, ask either of these gentlemen here whether I'm
telling you the truth."

She did not speak, but, with a glance at their averted faces, she sank into
a chair, and passed one hand over the other, while she drew her breath in
long, shuddering respirations, and stared at the floor with knit brows and
starting eyes, like one stifling a deadly pang. She made several attempts
to speak before she could utter any sound; then she lifted her eyes to her
father's: "Let us--let us--go--home! Oh, let us go home! I will give
him up. I _had_ given him up already; I told you," she said, turning to
Halleck, and speaking in a slow, gentle tone, "only an hour ago, that he
was dead. And this--this that's happened, it makes no difference. Why did
you bring the paper to me when you knew that I thought he was dead?"

"God knows I wished to keep it from you."

"Well, no matter now. Let him go free if he wants to. I can't help it."

"You _can_ help it," interrupted her father. "You've got the facts on your
side, and you've got the witnesses!"

"Would you go out with me, and tell him that I never meant to leave him?"
she asked simply, turning to Halleck. "You--and Olive?"

"We would do anything for you, Marcia!"

She sat musing, and drawing her hands one over the other again, while her
quivering breath came and went on the silence. She let her hands fall
nervelessly on her lap. "I can't go; I'm too weak; I couldn't bear the
journey. No!" She shook her head. "I can't go!"

"Marcia," began her father, "it's your _duty_ to go!"

"Does it say in the law that I have to go, if I don't choose?" she asked of
Halleck.

"No, you certainly need not go, if you don't choose!"

"Then I will stay. Do you think it's my duty to go?" she asked, referring
her question first to Halleck and then to Atherton. She turned from the
silence by which they tried to leave her free. "I don't care for my duty,
any more. I don't want to keep him, if it's so that he--left me--and--and
meant it--and he doesn't--care for me any--more."

"Care for you? He never cared for you, Marcia! And you may be sure he
doesn't care for you now."

"Then let him go, and let us go home."

"Very well!" said the old man. "We will go home, then, and before the
week's out Bartley Hubbard will be a perjured bigamist."

"Bigamist?" Marcia leaped to her feet.

"Yes, bigamist! Don't you suppose he had his eye on some other woman out
there before he began this suit?"

The languor was gone from Marcia's limbs. As she confronted her father, the
wonderful likeness in the outline of their faces appeared. His was dark and
wrinkled with age, and hers was gray with the anger that drove the blood
back to her heart, but one impulse animated those fierce profiles, and
the hoarded hate in the old man's soul seemed to speak in Marcia's thick
whisper, "I will go."



XXXVIII.


The Athertons sat late over their breakfast in the luxurious dining-room
where the April sun came in at the windows overlooking the Back Bay, and
commanding at that stage of the tide a long stretch of shallow with a
flight of white gulls settled upon it.

They had let Clara's house on the hill, and she had bought another on the
new land; she insisted upon the change, not only because everybody was
leaving the hill, but also because, as she said, it would seem too much
like taking Mr. Atherton to board, if they went to housekeeping where she
had always lived; she wished to give him the effect before the world of
having brought her to a house of his own. She had even furnished it anew
for the most part, and had banished as far as possible the things that
reminded her of the time when she was not his wife. He humored her in this
fantastic self-indulgence, and philosophized her wish to give him the
appearance of having the money, as something orderly in its origin, and not
to be deprecated on other grounds, since probably it deceived nobody. They
lived a very tranquil life, and Clara had no grief of her own unless it was
that there seemed to be no great things she could do for him. One day when
she whimsically complained of this, he said: "I'm very glad of that. Let's
try to be equal to the little sacrifices we must make for each other;
they will be quite enough. Many a woman who would be ready to die for her
husband makes him wretched because she won't live for him. Don't despise
the day of small things."

"Yes, but when every day seems the day of small things!" she pouted.

"Every day _is_ the day of small things," said Atherton, "with people
who are happy. We're never so prosperous as when we can't remember what
happened last Monday."

"Oh, but I can't bear to be always living in the present."

"It's not so spacious, I know, as either the past or the future, but it's
all we have."

"There!" cried Clara. "That's _fatalism_! It's _worse_ than fatalism!"

"And is fatalism so very bad?" asked her husband.

"It's Mahometanism!"

"Well, it isn't necessarily a plurality of wives," returned Atherton, in
subtle anticipation of her next point. "And it's really only another name
for resignation, which is certainly a good thing."

"Resignation? Oh, I don't know about that!"

Atherton laughed, and put his arm round her waist: an argument that no
woman can answer in a man she loves; it seems to deprive her of her
reasoning faculties. In the atmosphere of affection which she breathed, she
sometimes feared that her mental powers were really weakening. As a girl
she had lived a life full of purposes, which, if somewhat vague, were
unquestionably large. She had then had great interests,--art, music,
literature,--the symphony concerts, Mr. Hunt's classes, the novels of
George Eliot, and Mr Fiske's lectures on the cosmic philosophy; and she had
always felt that they expanded and elevated existence. In her moments of
question as to the shape which her life had taken since, she tried to think
whether the happiness which seemed so little dependent on these things was
not beneath the demands of a spirit which was probably immortal and was
certainly cultivated. They all continued to be part of her life, but only
a very small part; and she would have liked to ask her husband whether his
influence upon her had been wholly beneficial. She was not sure that
it had; but neither was she sure that it had not. She had never fully
consented to the distinctness with which he classified all her emotions and
ideas as those of a woman: in her heart she doubted whether a great many of
them might not be those of a man, though she had never found any of them
exactly like his. She could not complain that he did not treat her as an
equal; he deferred to her, and depended upon her good sense to an extent
that sometimes alarmed her, for she secretly knew that she had a very large
streak of silliness in her nature. He seemed to tell her everything, and to
be greatly ruled by her advice, especially in matters of business; but she
could not help observing that he often kept matters involving certain moral
questions from her till the moment for deciding them was past. When she
accused him of this, he confessed that it was so; but defended himself
by saying that he was afraid her conscience might sway him against his
judgment.

Clara now recurred to these words of his as she sat looking at him through
her tears across the breakfast table. "Was that the reason you never told
me about poor Ben before?"

"Yes, and I expect you to justify me. What good would it have done to tell
you?"

"I could have told you, at least, that, if Ben had any such feeling as
that, it wasn't _his_ fault altogether."

"But you wouldn't have believed that, Clara," said Atherton. "You know
that, whatever that poor creature's faults are, coquetry isn't one of
them."

Clara only admitted the fact passively. "How did he excuse himself for
coming back?" she asked.

"He didn't excuse himself; he defied himself. We had a stormy talk, and he
ended by denying that he had any social duty in the matter."

"And I think he was quite right!" Clara flashed out. "It was his own
affair."

"He said he had a concrete purpose, and wouldn't listen to abstractions.
Yes, he talked like a woman. But you know he wasn't right, Clara, though
_you_ talk like a woman, too. There are a great many things that are not
wrong except as they wrong others. I've no doubt that, as compared with the
highest love her husband ever felt for her, Ben's passion was as light to
darkness. But if he could only hope for its return through the perversion
of her soul,--through teaching her to think of escape from her marriage by
a divorce,--then it was a crime against her and against society."

"Ben couldn't do such a thing!"

"No, he could only dream of doing it. When it came to the attempt,
everything that was good in him revolted against it and conspired to make
him help her in the efforts that would defeat his hopes if they succeeded.
It was a ghastly ordeal, but it was sublime; and when the climax
came,--that paper, which he had only to conceal for a few days or
weeks,--he was equal to the demand upon him. But suppose a man of his pure
training and traditions had yielded to temptation,--suppose he had so far
depraved himself that he could have set about persuading her that she owed
no allegiance to her husband, and might rightfully get a divorce and marry
him,--what a ruinous blow it would have been to all who knew of it! It
would have disheartened those who abhorred it, and encouraged those who
wanted to profit by such an example. It doesn't matter much, socially, what
undisciplined people like Bartley and Marcia Hubbard do; but if a man
like Ben Halleck goes astray, it's calamitous; it 'confounds the human
conscience,' as Victor Hugo says. All that careful nurture in the right
since he could speak, all that life-long decency of thought and act, that
noble ideal of unselfishness and responsibility to others, trampled under
foot and spit upon,--it's horrible!"

"Yes," answered Clara, deeply moved, even as a woman may be in a pretty
breakfast-room, "and such a good soul as Ben always was naturally. Will you
have some more tea?"

"Yes, I will take another cup. But as for natural goodness--"

"Wait! I will ring for some hot water."

When the maid had appeared, disappeared, reappeared, and finally vanished,
Atherton resumed. "The natural goodness doesn't count. The natural man is a
wild beast, and his natural goodness is the amiability of a beast basking
in the sun when his stomach is full. The Hubbards were full of natural
goodness, I dare say, when they didn't happen to cross each other's wishes.
No, it's the implanted goodness that saves,--the seed of righteousness
treasured from generation to generation, and carefully watched and tended
by disciplined fathers and mothers in the hearts where they have dropped
it. The flower of this implanted goodness is what we call civilization,
the condition of general uprightness that Halleck declared he owed no
allegiance to. But he was better than his word."

Atherton lifted, with his slim, delicate hand, the cup of translucent
china, and drained off the fragrant Souchong, sweetened, and tempered with
Jersey cream to perfection. Something in the sight went like a pang to his
wife's heart. "Ah!" she said, "it is easy enough for us to condemn. _We_
have everything we want!"

"I don't forget that, Clara," said Atherton, gravely. "Sometimes when
I think of it, I am ready to renounce all judgment of others. The
consciousness of our comfort, our luxury, almost paralyzes me at those
times, and I am ashamed and afraid even of our happiness."

"Yes, what right," pursued Clara, rebelliously, "have we to be happy and
united, and these wretched creatures so--"

"No right,--none in the world! But somehow the effects follow their causes.
In some sort they chose misery for themselves,--we make our own hell in
this life and the next,--or it was chosen for them by undisciplined wills
that they inherited. In the long run their fate must be a just one."

"Ah, but I have to look at things in the _short_ run, and I can't see any
justice in Marcia's husband using her so!" cried Clara. "Why shouldn't
you use me badly? I don't believe that any woman ever meant better by her
husband than she did."

"Oh, the meaning doesn't count! It's our deeds that judge us. He is a
thoroughly bad fellow, but you may be sure she has been to blame. Though I
don't blame the Hubbards, either of them, so much as I blame Halleck. He
not only had everything he wished, but the training to know what he ought
to wish."

"I don't know about his having everything. I think Ben must have been
disappointed, some time," said Clara, evasively.

"Oh, that's nothing," replied Atherton, with the contented husband's
indifference to sentimental grievances.

Clara did not speak for some moments, and then she summed up a turmoil of
thoughts in a profound sigh. "Well, I don't like it! I thought it was bad
enough having a man, even on the outskirts of my acquaintance, abandon his
wife; but now Ben Halleck, who has been like a brother to me, to have him
mixed up in such an affair in the way he is, it's intolerable!"

"I agree with you," said Atherton, playing with his spoon. "You know how I
hate anything that sins against order, and this whole thing is disorderly.
It's intolerable, as you say. But we must bear our share of it. We're all
bound together. No one sins or suffers to himself in a civilized state,--or
religious state; it's the same thing. Every link in the chain feels the
effect of the violence, more or less intimately. We rise or fall together
in Christian society. It's strange that it should be so hard to realize
a thing that every experience of life teaches. We keep on thinking of
offences against the common good as if they were abstractions!"

"Well, _one_ thing," said Clara, "I shall always think unnecessarily
shocking and disgraceful about it. And that is Ben's going out with her on
this journey. I don't see how you could allow that, Eustace."

"Yes," said Atherton, after a thoughtful silence, "it _is_ shocking. The
only consolation is that it is _not_ unnecessarily shocking. I'm afraid
that it's necessarily so. When any disease of soul or body has gone
far enough, it makes its own conditions, and other things must adjust
themselves to it. Besides, no one knows the ugliness of the situation but
Halleck himself. I don't see how I could have interfered; and upon the
whole I don't know that I ought to have interfered, if I could. She would
be helpless without him; and he can get no harm from it. In fact, it's part
of his expiation, which must have begun as soon as he met her again after
he came home."

Clara was convinced, but not reconciled. She only said, "I don't like it."

Her husband did not reply; he continued musingly: "When the old man
made that final appeal to her jealousy,--all that there is really left,
probably, of her love for her husband,--and she responded with a face as
wicked as his, I couldn't help looking at Halleck--"

"Oh, poor Ben! _How_ did he take it? It must have scared, it must have
disgusted him!"

"That's what I had expected. But there was nothing in his face but pity. He
understood, and he pitied her. That was all."

Clara rose, and turned to the window, where she remained looking through
her tears at the gulls on the shallow. It seemed much more than twenty-four
hours since she had taken leave of Marcia and the rest at the station, and
saw them set out on their long journey with its uncertain and unimaginable
end. She had deeply sympathized with them all, but at the same time she
had felt very keenly the potential scandalousness of the situation; she
shuddered inwardly when she thought what if people knew; she had always
revolted from contact with such social facts as their errand involved. She
got Olive aside for a moment, and asked her, "Don't you _hate_ it, Olive?
Did you ever dream of being mixed up in such a thing? I should die,--simply
_die_!"

"I shall not think of dying, unless we fail," answered Olive. "And, as for
hating it, I haven't consulted my feelings a great deal; but I rather think
I like it."

"Like going out to be a witness in an Indiana divorce case!"

"I don't look at it in that way, Clara. It's a crusade to me; it's a holy
war; it's the cause of an innocent woman against a wicked oppression. I
know how _you_ would feel about it, Clara; but I never _was_ as respectable
as you are, and I'm quite satisfied to do what Ben, and father, and Mr.
Atherton approve. They think it's my duty, and I am glad to go, and to be
of all the use I can. But you shall have my heartfelt sympathy through all,
Clara, for your involuntary acquaintance with our proceedings."

"Olive! You _know_ that I'm proud of your courage and Ben's goodness, and
that I fully appreciate the sacrifice you're making. And I'm not ashamed
of your business: I think it's grand and sublime, and I would just as soon
scream it out at the top of my voice, right here in the Albany depot."

"Don't," said Olive. "It would frighten the child." She had Flavia by
the hand, and she made the little girl her special charge throughout the
journey. The old Squire seemed anxious to be alone, and he restlessly
escaped from Marcia's care. He sat all the first day apart, chewing upon
some fragment of wood that he had picked up, and now and then putting up
a lank hand to rasp his bristling jaw; glancing furtively at people who
passed him, and lapsing into his ruminant abstraction. He had been vexed
that they did not start the night before; and every halt the train made
visibly afflicted him. He would not leave his place to get anything to eat
when they stopped for refreshment, though he hungrily devoured the lunch
that Marcia brought into the car for him. At New York he was in a tumult of
fear lest they should lose the connecting train on the Pennsylvania Road;
and the sigh of relief with which he sank into his seat in the sleeping-car
expressed the suffering he had undergone. He said he was not tired, but he
went to bed early, as if to sleep away as much of the time as he could.

When Halleck came into their car, the next morning, he found Marcia and her
father sitting together, and looking out of the window at the wooded slopes
of the Alleghanies through which the train was running. The old man's
impatience had relaxed; he let Marcia lay her hand on his, and he answered
her with quiet submission, when she spoke now and then of the difference
between these valleys, where the wild rhododendrons were growing, and the
frozen hollows of the hills at home, which must be still choked with snow.

"But, oh! how much I would rather see them!" she said at last with a
homesick throb.

"Well," he assented, "we can go right back--afterwards."

"Yes," she whispered.

"Well, sir, good morning," said the old man to Halleck, "we are getting
along, sir. At this rate, unless our calculations were mistaken, we shall
be there by midnight. We are on time, the porter tells me."

"Yes, we shall soon be at Pittsburg," said Halleck, and he looked at
Marcia, who turned away her face. She had not spoken of the object of the
journey to him since they had left Boston, and it had not been so nearly
touched by either of them before.

He could see that she recoiled from it, but the old man, once having
approached it, could not leave it. "If everything goes well, we shall have
our grip on that fellow's throat in less than forty-eight hours." He looked
down mechanically at his withered hands, lean and yellow like the talons of
a bird, and lifted his accipitral profile with a predatory alertness. "I
didn't sleep very well the last part of the night, but I thought it all
out. I sha'n't care whether I get there before or after judgment is
rendered; all I want is to get there before he has a chance to clear out.
I think I shall be able to convince Bartley Hubbard that there is a God
in Israel yet! Don't you be anxious, Marcia; I've got this thing at my
fingers' ends, as clear as a bell. I intend to give Bartley a little
surprise!"

Marcia kept her face averted, and Halleck relinquished his purpose of
sitting down with them, and went forward to the state-room that Marcia and
Olive had occupied with the little girl. He tapped on the door, and found
his sister dressed, but the child still asleep.

"What is the matter, Ben?" she asked. "You don't look well. You oughtn't to
have undertaken this journey."

"Oh, I'm all right. But I've been up a good while, with nothing to eat.
That old man is terrible. Olive!"

"Her father? Yes, he's a terrible old man!"

"It sickened me to hear him talk, just now,--throwing out his threats of
vengeance against Hubbard. It made me feel a sort of sympathy for that poor
dog. Do you suppose she has the same motive? I couldn't forgive her!" he
said, with a kind of passionate weakness. "I couldn't forgive myself!"

"We've got nothing to do with their motive, Ben. We are to be her witnesses
for justice against a wicked wrong. I don't believe in special providences,
of course; but it does seem as if we had been called to this work, as
mother would say. Your happening to go home with her, that night, and then
that paper happening to come to you,--doesn't it look like it?"

"It looks like it, yes."

"We couldn't have refused to come. That's what consoles me for being here
this minute. I put on a bold face with Clara Atherton, yesterday morning at
the depot; but I was in a cold chill, all the time. Our coming off, in this
way, on such an errand, is something so different from the rest of our
whole life! And I _do_ like quiet, and orderly ways, and all that we call
respectability! I've been thinking that the trial will be reported by some
such interviewing wretch as Bartley himself, and that we shall figure in
the newspapers. But I've concluded that we mustn't care. It's right, and we
must do it. I don't shut my eyes to the kind of people we're mixed up with.
I pity Marcia, and I love her--poor, helpless, unguided thing!--but that
old man _is_ terrible! He's as cruel as the grave where he thinks he's been
wronged, and crueller where he thinks _she's_ been wronged. You've forgiven
so much, Ben, that you can't understand a man who forgives nothing; but
_I_ can, for I'm a pretty good hater, myself. And Marcia's just like her
father, at times. I've seen her look at Clara Atherton as if she could kill
her!"

The little girl stirred in her berth, and then lifted herself on her hands,
and stared round at them through her tangled golden hair. "Is it morning,
yet?" she asked sleepily. "Is it to-morrow?"

"Yes; it's to-morrow, Flavia," said Olive. "Do you want to get up?"

"And is next day the day after to-morrow?"

"Yes."

"Then it's only one day till I shall see papa. That's what mamma said.
Where is mamma?" asked the child, rising to her knees, and sweeping back
her hair from her face with either hand.

"I will go and send her to you," said Halleck.

At Pittsburg the Squire was eager for his breakfast, and made amends for
his fast of the day before. He ate grossly of the heterogeneous abundance
of the railroad restaurant, and drank two cups of coffee that in his thin,
native air would have disordered his pulse for a week. But he resumed his
journey with a tranquil strength that seemed the physical expression of a
mind clear and content. He was willing and even anxious to tell Halleck
what his theories and plans were; but the young man shrank from knowing
them. He wished only to know whether Marcia were privy to them, and this,
too, he shrank from knowing.



XXXIX.


They left Pittsburg under the dun pall of smoke that hangs perpetually over
the city, and ran out of a world where the earth seemed turned to slag and
cinders, and the coal grime blackened even the sheathing from which the
young leaves were unfolding their vivid green. Their train twisted along
the banks of the Ohio, and gave them now and then a reach of the stream,
forgetful of all the noisy traffic that once fretted its waters, and losing
itself in almost primitive wildness among its softly rounded hills. It is a
beautiful land, and it had, even to their loath eyes, a charm that touched
their hearts. They were on the borders of the illimitable West, whose lands
stretch like a sea beyond the hilly Ohio shore; but as yet this vastness,
which appalls and wearies all but the born Westerner, had not burst upon
them; they were still among heights and hollows, and in a milder and softer
New England.

"I have a strange feeling about this journey," said Marcia, turning from
the window at last, and facing Halleck on the opposite seat. "I want it to
be over, and yet I am glad of every little stop. I feel like some one that
has been called to a death-bed, and is hurrying on and holding back with
all her might, at the same time. I shall have no peace till I am there,
and then shall I have peace?" She fixed her eyes imploringly on his. "Say
something to me, if you can! What do you think?"

"Whether you will--succeed?" He was confounding what he knew of her
father's feeling with what he had feared of hers.

"Do you mean about the lawsuit? I don't care for that! Do you think he will
hate me when he sees me? Do you think he will believe me when I tell him
that I never meant to leave him, and that I'm sorry for what I did to drive
him away?"

She seemed to expect him to answer, and he answered as well as he could:
"He ought to believe that,--yes, he must believe it."

"Then all the rest may go," she said. "I don't care who gains the case.
But if he shouldn't believe me,--if he should drive me away from him, as
I drove him from me--" She held her breath in the terror of such a
possibility, and an awe of her ignorance crept over Halleck. Apparently she
had not understood the step that Bartley had taken, except as a stage in
their quarrel from which they could both retreat, if they would, as easily
as from any other dispute; she had not realized it as a final, an almost
irrevocable act on his part, which could only be met by reprisal on hers.
All those points of law which had been so sharply enforced upon her must
have fallen blunted from her longing to be at one with him; she had,
perhaps, not imagined her defence in open court, except as a sort of public
reconciliation.

But at another time she recurred to her wrongs in all the bitterness of her
father's vindictive purpose. A young couple entered the car at one of the
country stations, and the bride made haste to take off her white bonnet,
and lay her cheek on her husband's shoulder, while he passed his arm round
her silken waist, and drew her close to him on the seat, in the loving
rapture which is no wise inconvenienced by publicity on our railroad
trains. Indeed, after the first general recognition of their condition, no
one noticed them except Marcia, who seemed fascinated by the spectacle of
their unsophisticated happiness; it must have recalled the blissful abandon
of her own wedding journey to her. "Oh, poor fool!" she said to Olive. "Let
her wait, and it will not be long before she will know that she had better
lean on the empty air than on him. Some day, he will let her fall to the
ground, and when she gathers herself up all bruised and bleeding--But he
hasn't got the all-believing simpleton to deal with that he used to have;
and he shall pay me back for all--drop by drop, and ache for ache!"

She was in that strange mental condition into which women fall who brood
long upon opposing purposes and desires. She wished to be reconciled, and
she wished to be revenged, and she recurred to either wish for the time as
vehemently as if the other did not exist. She took Flavia on her knee, and
began to prattle to her of seeing papa to-morrow, and presently she turned
to Olive, and said: "I know he will find us both a great deal changed.
Flavia looks so much older,--and so do I. But I shall soon show him that I
can look young again. I presume he's changed too."

Marcia held the little girl up at the window. They had now left the river
hills and the rolling country beyond, and had entered the great plain which
stretches from the Ohio to the Mississippi; and mile by mile, as they ran
southward and westward, the spring unfolded in the mellow air under the
dull, warm sun. The willows were in perfect leaf, and wore their delicate
green like veils caught upon their boughs; the may-apples had already
pitched their tents in the woods, beginning to thicken and darken with the
young foliage of the oaks and hickories; suddenly, as the train dashed
from a stretch of forest, the peach orchards flushed pink beside the brick
farmsteads. The child gave a cry of delight, and pointed; and her mother
seemed to forget all that had gone before, and abandoned herself to
Flavia's joy in the blossoms, as if there were no trouble for her in the
world.

Halleck rose and went into the other car; he felt giddy, as if her
fluctuations of mood and motive had somehow turned his own brain. He did
not come back till the train stopped at Columbus for dinner. The old Squire
showed the same appetite as at breakfast: he had the effect of falling upon
his food like a bird of prey; and as soon as the meal was despatched he
went back to his seat in the car, where he lapsed into his former silence
and immobility, his lank jaws working with fresh activity upon the wooden
toothpick he had brought away from the table. While they waited for a train
from the north which was to connect with theirs, Halleck walked up and down
the vast, noisy station with Olive and Marcia, and humored the little girl
in her explorations of the place. She made friends with a red-bird that
sang in its cage in the dining-hall, and with an old woman, yellow, and
wrinkled, and sunken-eyed, sitting on a bundle tied up in a quilt beside
the door, and smoking her clay pipe, as placidly as if on her own cabin
threshold. "'Pears like you ain't much afeard of strangers, honey," said
the old woman, taking her pipe out of her mouth, to fill it. "Where do you
live at when you're home?"

"Boston," said the child, promptly. "Where do _you_ live?"

"I _used_ to live in Old Virginny. But my son, he's takin' me out to
Illinoy, now. He's settled out there." She treated the child with the
serious equality which simple old people use with children; and spat neatly
aside in resuming her pipe. "Which o' them ladies yender is your maw,
honey?"

"My mamma?"

The old woman nodded.

Flavia ran away and laid her hand on Marcia's dress, and then ran back to
the old woman.

"That your paw, with her?" Flavia looked blank, and the old woman
interpreted, "Your father."

"No! We're going out to see papa,--out West. We're going to see him
to-morrow, and then he's coming back with us. My grandpa is in that car."

The old woman now laid her folded arms on her knees, and smoked
obliviously. The little girl lingered a moment, and then ran off laughing
to her mother, and pulled her skirt. "Wasn't it funny, mamma? She thought
Mr. Halleck was my papa!" She hung forward by the hold she had taken, as
children do, and tilted her head back to look into her mother's face. "What
_is_ Mr. Halleck, mamma?"

"What is he?" The group halted involuntarily.

"Yes, what is he? Is he my uncle, or my cousin, or what? Is _he_ going
out to see papa, too? What is _he_ going for? Oh, look, look!" The child
plucked away her hand, and ran off to join the circle of idle men and
half-grown boys who were forming about two shining negroes with banjos.
The negroes flung their hands upon the strings with an ecstatic joy in the
music, and lifted their black voices in a wild plantation strain. The child
began to leap and dance, and her mother ran after her.

"Naughty little girl!" she cried. "Come into the car with me, this minute."

Halleck did not see Marcia again till the train had run far out of the
city, and was again sweeping through the thick woods, and flashing out upon
the levels of the fields where the farmers were riding their sulky-plows
up and down the long furrows in the pleasant afternoon sun. There was
something in this transformation of man's old-time laborious dependence
into a lordly domination over the earth which strikes the westward
journeyer as finally expressive of human destiny in the whole mighty
region, and which penetrated even to Halleck's sore and jaded thoughts.
A different type of men began to show itself in the car, as the Western
people gradually took the places of his fellow-travellers from the East.
The men were often slovenly and sometimes uncouth in their dress; but they
made themselves at home in the exaggerated splendor and opulence of the
car, as if born to the best in every way; their faces suggested the
security of people who trusted the future from the past, and had no fears
of the life that had always used them well; they had not that eager and
intense look which the Eastern faces wore; there was energy enough and to
spare in them, but it was not an anxious energy. The sharp accent of the
seaboard yielded to the rounded, soft, and slurring tones, and the prompt
address was replaced by a careless and confident neighborliness of manner.

Flavia fretted at her return to captivity in the car, and demanded to be
released with a teasing persistence from which nothing she was shown out of
the window could divert her. A large man leaned forward at last from a seat
near by, and held out an orange. "Come here to me, little Trouble," he
said; and Flavia made an eager start toward this unlooked-for friend.

Marcia wished to check her; but Halleck pleaded to have her go. "It will be
a relief to you," he said.

"Well, let her go," Marcia consented. "But she was no trouble, and she is
no relief." She sat looking dully at the little girl after the Westerner
had gathered her up into his lap. "Should I have liked to tell her," she
said, as if thinking aloud, "how we were really going to meet her father,
and that you were coming with me to be my witness against him in a
court,--to put him down and disgrace him,--to fight him, as father says?"

"You mustn't think of it in that way," said Halleck, gently, but, as he
felt, feebly and inadequately.

"Oh, I shall not think of it in that way long," she answered. "My head is
in a whirl, and I can't hold what we're doing before my mind in any one
shape for a minute at a time. I don't know what will become of me,--I don't
know what will become of me!"

But in another breath she rose from this desolation, and was talking with
impersonal cheerfulness of the sights that the car-window showed. As long
as the light held, they passed through the same opulent and monotonous
landscape; through little towns full of signs of material prosperity,
and then farms, and farms again; the brick houses set in the midst of
evergreens, and compassed by vast acreages of corn land, where herds of
black pigs wandered, and the farmers were riding their ploughs, or heaping
into vast windrows for burning the winter-worn stalks of the last year's
crop. Where they came to a stream the landscape was roughened into low
hills, from which it sank again luxuriously to a plain. If there was any
difference between Ohio and Indiana, it was that in Indiana the spring
night, whose breath softly buffeted their cheeks through the open window,
had gathered over those eternal cornfields, where the long crooked
windrows, burning on either hand, seemed a trail of fiery serpents writhing
away from the train as it roared and clamored over the track.

They were to leave their car at Indianapolis, and take another road which
would bring them to Tecumseh by daylight the next morning. Olive went away
with the little girl, and put her to bed on the sofa in their state-room,
and Marcia suffered them to go alone; it was only by fits that she had
cared for the child, or even noticed it. "Now tell me again," she said to
Halleck, "why we are going."

"Surely you know."

"Yes, yes, I know; but I can't think,--I don't seem to remember. Didn't I
give it up once? Didn't I say that I would rather go home, and let Bartley
get the divorce, if he wanted?"

"Yes, you said that, Marcia."

"I used to make him very unhappy; I was very strict with him, when I knew
he couldn't bear any kind of strictness. And he was always so patient with
me; though he never really cared for me. Oh, yes, I knew that from the
first! He used to try; but he must have been glad to get away. Poor
Bartley! It was cruel, cruel, to put that in about my abandoning him when
he knew I would come back; but perhaps the lawyers told him he must; he had
to put in something! Why shouldn't I let him go? Father said he only wanted
to get rid of me, so that he could marry some one else--Yes, yes; it was
that that made me start! Father knew it would! Oh," she grieved, with a
wild self-pity that tore Halleck's heart, "he knew it would!" She fell
wearily back against the seat, and did not speak for some minutes. Then she
said, in a slow, broken utterance: "But now I don't seem to mind even that,
any more. Why shouldn't he marry some one else that he really likes, if he
doesn't care for me?"

Halleck laughed in bitterness of soul as his thought recurred to Atherton's
reasons. "Because," he said, "you have a _public_ duty in the matter.
You must keep him bound to you, for fear some other woman, whose husband
doesn't care for her, should let _him_ go, too, and society be broken up,
and civilization destroyed. In a matter like this, which seems to concern
yourself alone, you are only to regard others."

His reckless irony did not reach her through her manifold sorrow. "Well,"
she said, simply, "it must be that. But, oh! how can I bear it! how can I
bear it!"

The time passed; Olive did not return for an hour; then she merely said
that the little girl had just fallen asleep, and that she should go back
and lie down with her; that she was sleepy too.

Marcia did not answer, but Halleck said he would call her in good time
before they reached Indianapolis.

The porter made up the berths of such as were going through to St. Louis,
and Marcia was left sitting alone with Halleck. "I will go and get your
father to come here," he said.

"I don't want him to come! I want to talk to you--to say something--What
was it? I can't think!" She stopped, like one trying to recover a faded
thought; he waited, but she did not speak again. She had laid a nervous
clutch upon his arm, to detain him from going for her father, and she
kept her hand there mechanically; but after a while he felt it relax; she
drooped against him, and fell away into a sleep in which she started now
and then like a frightened child. He could not release himself without
waking her; but it did not matter; her sorrow had unsexed her; only the
tenderness of his love for this hapless soul remained in his heart, which
ached and evermore heavily sank within him.

He woke her at last when he must go to tell Olive that they were running
into Indianapolis. Marcia struggled to her feet: "Oh, oh! Are we there? Are
we there?"

"We are at Indianapolis," said Halleck.

"I thought it was Tecumseh!" She shuddered. "We can go back; oh, yes, we
can still go back!"

They alighted from the train in the chilly midnight air, and found their
way through the crowd to the eating-room of the station. The little girl
cried with broken sleep and the strangeness, and Olive tried to quiet her.
Marcia clung to Halleck's arm, and shivered convulsively. Squire Gaylord
stalked beside them with a demoniac vigor. "A few more hours, a few more
hours, sir!" he said. He made a hearty supper, while the rest scalded their
mouths with hot tea, which they forced with loathing to their lips.

Some women who were washing the floor of the ladies' waiting-room told them
they must go into the men's room, and wait there for their train, which was
due at one o'clock. They obeyed, and found the room full of emigrants, and
the air thick with their tobacco smoke. There was no choice; Olive went in
first and took the child on her lap, where it straightway fell asleep;
the Squire found a seat beside them, and sat erect, looking round on the
emigrants with the air of being amused at their outlandish speech, into
which they burst clamorously from their silence at intervals. Marcia
stopped Halleck at the threshold. "Stay out here with me," she whispered.
"I want to tell you something," she added, as he turned mechanically and
walked away with her up the vast lamp-shot darkness of the depot. "_I am
not going on_! I am going back. We will take the train that goes to the
East; father will never know till it is too late. We needn't speak to him
about it--"

Halleck set himself against this delirious folly: he consented to her
return; she could do what she would; but he would not consent to cheat
her father. "We must go and tell him," he said, for all answer to all her
entreaties. He dragged her back to the waiting-room; but at the door she
started at the figure of a man who was bending over a group of emigrant
children asleep in the nearest corner,--poor, uncouth, stubbed little
creatures, in old-mannish clothes, looking like children roughly blocked
out of wood, and stiffly stretched on the floor, or resting woodenly
against their mother.

"There!" said the man, pressing a mug of coffee on the woman. "You drink
that! It'll do you good,--every drop of it! I've seen the time," he said,
turning round with the mug, when she had drained it, in his hand, and
addressing Marcia and Halleck as the most accessible portion of the
English-speaking public, "when I used to be down on coffee; I thought it
was bad for the nerves; but I tell you, when you're travelling it's a
brain-food, if ever there was a brain--" He dropped the mug, and stumbled
back into the heap of sleeping children, fixing a ghastly stare on Marcia.

She ran toward him. "Mr. Kinney!"

"No, you don't!--no, you don't!"

"Why, don't you know me? Mrs. Hubbard?"

"He--he--told me you--was dead!" roared Kinney.

"He told you I was dead?"

"More'n a year ago! The last time I seen him! Before I went out to
Leadville!"

"He told you I was dead," repeated Marcia huskily. "He must have wished
it!" she whispered. "Oh, mercy, mercy, mercy!" She stopped, and then she
broke into a wild laugh: "Well, you see he was wrong. I'm on my way to him
now to show him that I'm alive!"



XL.


Halleck woke at daybreak from the drowse into which he had fallen. The
train was creeping slowly over the track, feeling its way, and he heard
fragments of talk among the passengers about a broken rail that the
conductor had been warned of. He turned to ask some question, when the pull
of rising speed came from the locomotive, and at the same moment the car
stopped with a jolting pitch. It settled upon the track again; but the two
cars in front were overturned, and the passengers were still climbing
from their windows, when Halleck got his bewildered party to the ground.
Children were crying, and a woman was led by with her face cut and bleeding
from the broken glass; but it was reported that no one else was hurt,
and the trainmen gave their helplessness to the inspection of the rotten
cross-tie that had caused the accident. One of the passengers kicked the
decayed wood with his boot. "Well," he said, "I always like a little
accident like this, early; it makes us safe the rest of the day." The
sentiment apparently commended itself to popular acceptance; Halleck
went forward with part of the crowd to see what was the matter with the
locomotive: it had kept the track, but seemed to be injured somehow;
the engineer was working at it, hammer in hand; he exchanged some dry
pleasantries with a passenger who asked him if there was any chance of
hiring a real fast ox-team in that neighborhood, in case a man was in a
hurry to get on to Tecumseh.

They were in the midst of a level prairie that stretched all round to the
horizon, where it was broken by patches of timber; the rising sun slanted
across the green expanse, and turned its distance to gold; the grass at
their feet was full of wild-flowers, upon which Flavia flung herself as
soon as they got out of the car. By the time Halleck returned to them,
she was running with cries of joy and wonder toward a windmill that rose
beautiful above the roofs of a group of commonplace houses, at a little
distance from the track; it stirred its mighty vans in the thin, sweet
inland breeze, and took the sun gayly on the light gallery that encircled
it.

A vision of Belgian plains swept before Halleck's eyes. "There ought to be
storks on its roof," he said, absently.

"How strange that it should be here, away out in the West!" said Olive.

"If it were less strange than we are, here, I couldn't stand it," he
answered.

A brakeman came up with a flag in his hand, and nodded toward Flavia.
"She's on the right track for breakfast," he said. "There's an old Dutchman
at that mill, and his wife knows how to make coffee like a fellow's mother.
You'll have plenty of time. This train has come here to _stay_--till
somebody can walk back five miles and telegraph for help."

"How far are we from Tecumseh?" asked Halleck.

"Fifty miles," the brakeman called back over his shoulder.

"Don't you worry any, Marcia," said her father, moving off in pursuit of
Flavia. "This accident makes it all right for us, if we don't get there for
a week."

Marcia answered nothing. Halleck began to talk to her of that Belgian
landscape in which he had first seen a windmill, and he laughed at the
blank unintelligence with which she received his reminiscences of travel.
For the moment, the torturing stress was lifted from his soul; he wished
that the breakfast in the miller's house might never come to an end; he
explored the mill with Flavia; he bantered the Squire on his saturnine
preference for steam power in the milling business; he made the others
share his mood; he pushed far from him the series of tragic or squalid
facts which had continually brought the end to him in reveries in which
he found himself holding his breath, as if he might hold it till the end
really came.

But this respite could not last. A puff of white steam showed on the
horizon, and after an interval the sound of the locomotive whistle reached
them, as it came backing down a train of empty cars towards them. They were
quickly on their journey again, and a scanty hour before noon they arrived
at Tecumseh.

The pretty town, which in prospect had worn to Olive Halleck's imagination
the blended hideousness of Sodom and Gomorrah, was certainly very much
more like a New England village in fact. After the brick farmsteads and
coal-smoked towns of Central Ohio, its wooden houses, set back from the
street with an ample depth of door-yard, were appealingly familiar, and
she exchanged some homesick whispers with Marcia about them, as they drove
along under the full-leaved maples which shadowed the way. The grass was
denser and darker than in New England, and, pretty as the town was, it wore
a more careless and unscrupulous air than the true New England village; the
South had touched it, and here and there it showed a wavering line of fence
and a faltering conscientiousness in its paint. Presently all aspects of
village quiet and seclusion ceased, and a section of conventional American
city, with flab-roofed brick blocks, showy hotel, stores, paved street, and
stone sidewalks expressed the readiness of Tecumseh to fulfil the destiny
of every Western town, and become a metropolis at a day's notice, if need
be. The second-hand omnibus, which reflected the actuality of Tecumseh,
set them down at the broad steps of the court-house, fronting on an avenue
which for a city street was not very crowded or busy. Such passers as there
were had leisure and inclination, as they loitered by, to turn and stare
at the strangers; and the voice of the sheriff, as he called from an upper
window of the court-house the names of absentee litigants or witnesses
required to come into court, easily made itself heard above all the other
noises.

It seemed to Halleck as if the sheriff were calling them; he lifted his
head and looked at Olive, but she would not meet his eye; she led by the
hand the little girl, who kept asking, "Is this the house where papa
lives?" with the merciless iteration of a child. Halleck dragged lamely
after the Squire, who had mounted the steps with unnatural vigor; he
promptly found his way to the clerk's office, where he examined the docket,
and then returned to his party triumphant. "We are in time," he said, and
he led them on up into the court-room.

A few spectators, scattered about on the rows of benching, turned to look
at them as they walked up the aisle, where the cocoa matting, soaked
and dried, and soaked again, with perpetual libations of tobacco-juice,
mercifully silenced their footsteps; most of the faces turned upon them
showed a slow and thoughtful movement of the jaws, and, as they were
dropped or averted, a general discharge of tobacco-juice seemed to express
the general adoption of the new-comers, whoever they were, as a necessary
element of the scene, which it was useless to oppose, and about which it
was idle to speculate. Before the Squire had found his party seats on one
of the benches next the bar, the spectators had again given their languid
attention to the administration of justice, which is everywhere informal
with us, and is only a little more informal in the West than in the East.
An effect of serene disoccupation pervaded the place, such as comes at the
termination of an interesting affair; and no one seemed to care for what
the clerk was reading aloud in a set, mechanical tone. The judge was busy
with his docket; the lawyers, at their several little tables within the
bar, lounged in their chairs, or stalked about laughing and whispering
to each other; the prosecuting attorney leaned upon the shoulder of a
jolly-looking man, who lifted his face to joke up at him, as he tilted his
chair back; a very stout, youngish person, who sat next him, kept his face
dropped while the clerk proceeded:--

"And now, on motion of plaintiff, it is ordered by the Court that said
defendant be now here three times called, which is done in open court,
and she comes not; but wholly makes default herein. And this cause is now
submitted to the Court for trial, and the Court having heard the evidence,
and being fully advised, find for the plaintiff,--that the allegations
of his complaint are true, and that he is entitled to a divorce. It is
therefore considered by the Court, that said plaintiff be and he is hereby
divorced, and the bonds of matrimony heretofore existing between said
parties are dissolved and held for naught."

As the clerk closed the large volume before him, the jolly lawyer, as if
the record had been read at his request, nodded to the Court, and said,
"The record of the decree seems correct, your honor." He leaned forward,
and struck the fat man's expanse of back with the flat of his hand.
"Congratulate you, my dear boy!" he said in a stage whisper that was heard
through the room. "Many happy returns of the day!"

A laugh went round, and the judge said severely, "Mr. Sheriff, see that
order is kept in the courtroom."

The fat man rose to shake hands with another friend, and at the same moment
Squire Gaylord stretched himself to his full height before stooping over
to touch the shoulder of one of the lawyers within the bar, and his eyes
encountered those of Bartley Hubbard in mutual recognition.

It was not the fat on Bartley's ribs only that had increased: his broad
cheeks stood out and hung down with it, and his chin descended by the three
successive steps to his breast. His complexion was of a tender pink, on
which his blonde moustache showed white; it almost vanished in the tallowy
pallor to which the pink turned as he saw his father-in-law, and then the
whole group which the intervening spectators had hitherto hidden from him.
He dropped back into his chair, and intimated to his lawyer, with a wave of
his hand and a twist of his head, that some hopeless turn in his fortunes
had taken place. That jolly soul turned to him for explanation, and at
the same time the lawyer whom Squire Gaylord had touched on the shoulder
responded to a few whispered words from him by beckoning to the prosecuting
attorney, who stepped briskly across to where they stood. A brief dumb-show
ensued, and the prosecutor ended by taking the Squire's hand, and inviting
him within the bar; the other attorney politely made room for him at his
table, and the prosecutor returned to his place near the jury-box, where he
remained standing for a moment.

"If it please the Court," he began, in a voice breaking heavily upon the
silence that had somehow fallen upon the whole room, "I wish to state that
the defendant in the case of Hubbard _vs_. Hubbard is now and here present,
having been prevented by an accident on the road between this place and
Indianapolis from arriving in time to make defence. She desires to move the
Court to set aside the default."

The prosecutor retired a few paces, and nodded triumphantly at Bartley's
lawyer, who could not wholly suppress his enjoyment of the joke, though it
told so heavily against him and his client. But he was instantly on his
feet with a technical objection.

The judge heard him through, and then opened his docket, at the case of
Hubbard vs. Hubbard. "What name shall I enter for the defence?" he inquired
formally.

Squire Gaylord turned with an old-fashioned state and deliberation which
had their effect, and cast a glance of professional satisfaction in the
situation at the attorneys and the spectators. "I ask to be allowed to
appear for the defence in this case, if the Court please. My friend, Mr.
Hathaway, will move my admission to this bar."

The attorney to whom the Squire had first introduced himself promptly
complied: "Your honor, I move the admission of Mr. F. J. Gaylord, of
Equity, Equity County, Maine, to practise at this bar."

The judge bowed to the Squire, and directed the clerk to administer the
usual oath. "I have entered your name for the defence, Mr. Gaylord. Do you
desire to make any motion in the case?" he pursued, the natural courtesy of
his manner further qualified by a feeling which something pathetic in the
old Squire's bearing inspired.

"Yes, your honor, I move to set aside the default, and I shall offer in
support of this motion my affidavit, setting forth the reasons for the
non-appearance of the defendant at the calling of the cause."

"Shall I note your motion as filed?" asked the Judge.

"Yes, your honor," replied the old man. He made a futile attempt to prepare
the paper; the pen flew out of his trembling hand. "_I_ can't write," he
said in despair that made other hands quick to aid him. A young lawyer at
the next desk rapidly drew up the paper, and the Squire duly offered it
to the clerk of the Court. The clerk stamped it with the file-mark of
the Court, and returned it to the Squire, who read aloud the motion and
affidavit, setting forth the facts of the defendant's failure to receive
the notice in time to prepare for her defence, and of the accident which
had contributed to delay her appearance, declaring that she had a just
defence to the plaintiff's bill, and asking to be heard upon the facts.

Bartley's attorney was prompt to interpose again. He protested that the
printed advertisement was sufficient notice to the defendant, whenever it
came to her knowledge, or even if it never came to her knowledge, and that
her plea of failure to receive it in time was not a competent excuse. This
might be alleged in any case, and any delay of travel might be brought
forward to account for non-appearance as plausibly as this trumped-up
accident in which nobody was hurt. He did his best, which was also his
worst, and the judge once more addressed the Squire, who stood waiting for
Bartley's counsel to close. "I was about to adjourn the Court," said the
judge, in that accent which is the gift of the South to some parts of the
West; it is curiously soft and gentle, and expressive, when the speaker
will, of a caressing deference. "But we have still some minutes before noon
in which we can hear you in support of your motion, if you are ready."

"I am m-ready, your honor!" The old man's nasals cut across the judge's
rounded tones, almost before they had ceased. His lips compressed
themselves to a waving line, and his high hawk-beak came down over them;
the fierce light burned in his cavernous eyes, and his grizzled hair
erected itself like a crest. He swayed slightly back and forth at the
table, behind which he stood, and paused as if waiting for his hate to
gather head.

In this interval it struck several of the spectators, who had appreciative
friends outside, that it was a pity they should miss the coming music, and
they risked the loss of some strains themselves that they might step out
and inform these _dilettanti_. One of them was stopped by a man at the
door. "What's up, now?" The other impatiently explained; but the inquirer,
instead of hurrying in to enjoy the fun, turned quickly about, and ran down
the stairs. He crossed the street, and, by a system of alleys and byways,
modestly made his way to the outlying fields of Tecumseh, which he
traversed at heightened speed, plunging at last into the belt of timber
beyond. This excursion, which had so much the appearance of a chase, was
an exigency of the witness who had corroborated on oath the testimony of
Bartley in regard to his wife's desertion. Such an establishment of facts,
purely imaginary with the witness, was simple enough in the absence of
rebutting testimony; but confronted with this, it became another affair; it
had its embarrassments, its risks.

"M-ready," repeated Squire Gay lord, "m-ready with facts and _witnesses!"_
The word, in which he exulted till it rang and echoed through the room,
drew the eyes of all to the little group on the bench next the bar, where
Marcia, heavily veiled in the black which she had worn ever since Bartley's
disappearance, sat with Halleck and Olive. The little girl, spent with her
long journey, rested her head on her mother's lap, and the mother's hand
tremulously smoothed her hair, and tried to hush the grieving whisper in
which she incessantly repeated, "Where is papa? I want to see papa!"

Olive looked straight before her, and Halleck's eyes were fixed upon the
floor. After the first glance at them Bartley did not lift his head, but
held it bent forward where he sat, and showed only a fold of fat red neck
above his coat-collar. Marcia might have seen his face in that moment
before it blanched and he sank into his chair; she did not look toward him
again.

"Mr. Sheriff, keep silence in the Court!" ordered the judge, in reprimand
of the stir that ensued upon the general effort to catch sight of the
witnesses.

"Silence in the Court! Keep your seats, gentlemen!" cried the sheriff.

"And I thank the Court," resumed the Squire, "for this immediate
opportunity to redress an atrocious wrong, and to vindicate an innocent and
injured woman. Sir, I think it will prejudice our cause with no one, when I
say that we are here not only in the relation of attorney and client, but
in that of father and daughter, and that I stand in this place singularly
and sacredly privileged to demand justice for my own child!"

"Order, order!" shouted the sheriff. But he could not quell the sensation
that followed; the point had been effectively made, and it was some moments
before the noise of the people beginning to arrive from the outside
permitted the Squire to continue. He waited, with one lean hand hanging
at his side, and the other resting in a loosely folded fist on the table
before him. He took this fist up as if it were some implement he had laid
hold of, and swung it in the air.

"By a chance which _I_ shall not be the last to describe as
providential,"--he paused, and looked round the room as if defying any one
there to challenge the sincerity of his assertion,--"the notice, which your
law requires to be given by newspaper advertisement to the non-resident
defendant in such a case as this, came, by one chance in millions, to her
hand. By one chance more or less, it would not have reached her, and a
monstrous crime against justice would have been irrevocably accomplished.
For she had mourned this man as dead,--dead to the universal frame of
things, when he was only dead to honor, dead to duty, and dead to her;
and it was that newspaper, sent almost at random through the mail, and
wandering from hand to hand, and everywhere rejected, for weeks, before it
reached her at last, which convinced her that he was still in such life
as a man may live who has survived his own soul. We are therefore _here_,
standing upon our right, and prepared to prove it God's right, and
the everlasting truth. Two days ago, a thousand miles and a thousand
uncertainties intervened between us and this right, but _now_ we are here
to show that the defendant, basely defamed by the plea of abandonment,
returned to her home within an hour after she had parted there with the
plaintiff, and has remained there day and night ever since." He stopped.
"Did I say she had never absented herself during all this time? I was
wrong. I spoke hastily. I forgot." He dropped his voice. "She did absent
herself at one time,--for three days,--while she could come home to close
her mother's dying eyes, and help me to lay her in the grave!" He tried
to close his lips firmly again, but the sinuous line was broken by a
convulsive twitching. "Perhaps," he resumed with the utmost gentleness,
"the plaintiff returned in this interval, and, finding her gone, was
confirmed in his belief that she had abandoned him."

He felt blindly about on the table with his trembling hands, and his whole
figure had a pathos that gave the old dress-coat statuesque dignity. The
spectators quietly changed their places, and occupied the benches near him,
till Bartley was left sitting alone with his counsel. We are beginning to
talk here at the East of the decline of oratory; but it is still a passion
in the West, and his listeners now clustered about the Squire in keen
appreciation of his power; it seemed to summon even the loiterers in the
street, whose ascending tramp on the stairs continually made itself heard;
the lawyers, the officers of the court, the judge, forgot their dinner, and
posed themselves anew in their chairs to listen.

No doubt the electrical sphere of sympathy and admiration penetrated to
the old man's consciousness. When he pulled off his black satin stock--the
relic of ancient fashion which the piety of his daughter kept in
repair--and laid it on the table, there was a deep inarticulate murmur of
satisfaction which he could not have mistaken. His voice rose again:--

"If the plaintiff indeed came at that time, the walls of those empty rooms,
into which he peered like a thief in the night, might have told him--if
walls had tongues to speak as they have ears to hear--a tale that would
have melted even _his_ heart with remorse and shame. They might have told
him of a woman waiting in hunger and cold for his return, and willing to
starve and freeze, rather than own herself forsaken,--waiting till she was
hunted from her door by the creditors whom he had defrauded, and forced to
confess her disgrace and her despair, in order to save herself from the
unknown terrors of the law, invoked upon her innocent head by his villany.
This is the history of the first two weeks of those two years, during
which, as his perjured lips have sworn, he was using every effort to secure
her return to him. I will not enlarge now upon this history, nor upon that
of the days and weeks and months that followed, wringing the heart and all
but crazing the brain of the wife who would not, in the darkest hours of
her desolation, believe herself wilfully abandoned. But we have the record,
unbroken and irrefragable, which shall not only right his victim, but shall
bring yonder perjurer to justice."

The words had an iron weight; they fell like blows. Bartley did not stir;
but Marcia moved uneasily in her chair, and a low pitiful murmur broke from
behind her veil. Her father stopped again, panting, and his dry lips closed
and parted several times before he could find his voice again. But at that
sound of grief he partially recovered himself, and went on brokenly.

"I now ask this Court, for due cause, to set aside the default upon which
judgment has been rendered against the defendant, and I shall then ask
leave to file her cross-petition for divorce."

Marcia started half-way from her chair, and then fell back again; she
looked round at Halleck as if for help, and hid her face in her hands. Her
father cast a glance at her as if for her approval of this development of
his plan.

"Then, may it please the Court, upon the rendition of judgment in our favor
upon that petition--a result of which I have no more doubt than of my own
existence--I shall demand under your law the indictment of yonder perjurer
for his crime, and I shall await in security the sentence which shall
consign him to a felon's cell in a felon's garb--"

Marcia flung herself upon her father's arm, outstretched toward Bartley.
"No! No! No!" she cried, with deep, shuddering breaths, in a voice thick
with horror. "Never! Let him go! I will not have it! I didn't understand! I
never meant to harm him! Let him go! It is _my_ cause, and I say--"

The old man's arm dropped; he fixed a ghastly, bewildered look upon his
daughter, and fell forward across the table at which he stood. The judge
started from his chair; the people leaped over the benches, and crushed
about the Squire, who fetched his breath in convulsive gasps. "Keep back!"
"Give him air!" "Open the window!" "Get a doctor!" cried those next him.

Even Bartley's counsel had joined the crowd about the Squire, from the
midst of which broke the long, frightened wail of a child. This was
Bartley's opportunity. When his counsel turned to look for him, and advise
his withdrawal from a place where he could do no good, and where possibly
he might come to harm, he found that his advice had been anticipated:
Bartley's chair was vacant.



XLI.


That night when Halleck had left the old man to the care of Marcia and
Olive, for the time, a note was brought to him from Bartley's lawyer,
begging the favor of a few moments' interview on very important business.
It might be some offer of reparation or advance in Marcia's interest, and
Halleck went with the bearer of the note. The lawyer met him hospitably at
the door of his office. "How do you do, sir?" he said, shaking hands. Then
he indicated a bulk withdrawn into a corner of the dimly-lighted room; the
blinds were drawn, and he locked the door after Halleck's entrance. "Mr.
Hubbard, whom I think you know," he added. "I'll just step into the next
room, gentlemen, and will be subject to your call at any moment."

The bulk lifted itself and moved some paces toward Halleck; Bartley even
raised his hand, with the vague expectation of taking Halleck's, but seeing
no responsive gesture on his part, he waved a salutation and dropped it
again to his side.

"How d' ye do, Halleck? Rather a secret, black, and midnight interview,"
he said jocosely. "But I couldn't very well manage it otherwise. I'm _not_
just in the position to offer you the freedom of the city."

"What do you want, Hubbard?" asked Halleck, bluntly.

"How is the old Squire?"

"The doctor thinks he may rally from the shock."

"Paralysis?"

"Yes."

"I have spent the day in the 'tall timber,' as our friends out here say,
communing with nature; and I've only just come into town since dark, so I
hadn't any particulars." He paused, as if expecting that Halleck might give
them, but upon his remaining silent, he resumed. "Of course, as the case
now stands, I know very well that the law can't touch me. But I didn't know
what the popular feeling might be. The Squire laid it on pretty hot, and he
might have made it livelier for me than he intended: he isn't aware of the
inflammable nature of the material out here." He gave a nervous chuckle. "I
wanted to see you, Halleck, to tell you that I haven't forgotten that money
I owe you, and that I mean to pay it all up, some time, yet. If it hadn't
been for some expenses I've had lately,--doctor's bills, and so forth,--I
haven't been very well, myself,"--he made a sort of involuntary appeal for
Halleck's sympathy,--"and I've had to pay out a good deal of money,--I
should be able to pay most of it now. As it is, I can only give you five
hundred of it." He tugged his porte-monnaie with difficulty up the slope of
his pantaloons. "That will leave me just three hundred to begin the world
with; for of course I've got to clear out of here. And I'd got very
comfortably settled after two years of pretty hard work at the printing
business, and hard reading at the law. Well, it's all right. And I want to
pay you this money, now, and I'll pay you the rest whenever I can. And I
want you to tell Marcia that I did it. I always meant to do it."

"Hubbard," interrupted Halleck, "you don't owe me any money. Your
father-in-law paid that debt two years ago. But you owe some one else a
debt that no one can pay for you. We needn't waste words: what are you
going to do to repair the wrong you have done the woman and the child--" He
stopped; the effort had perhaps been too much.

Bartley saw his emotion, and in his benighted way he honored it. "Halleck,
you are a good fellow. You are _such_ a good fellow that you can't
understand this thing. But it's played out. I felt badly about it myself,
at one time; and if I hadn't been robbed of that money you lent me on my
way here, I'd have gone back inside of forty-eight hours. I was sorry for
Marcia; it almost broke my heart to think of the little one; but I knew
they were in the hands of friends; and the more time I had to think it
over, the more I was reconciled to what I had done. That was the only way
out, for either of us. We had tried it for three years, and we couldn't
make it go; we never could have made it go; we were incompatible. Don't
you suppose I knew Marcia's good qualities? No one knows them better, or
appreciates them more. You might think that I applied for this divorce
because I had some one else in view. Not any more in mine at present! But I
thought we ought to be free, both of us; and if our marriage had become a
chain, that we ought to break it." Bartley paused, apparently to give these
facts and reasons time to sink into Halleck's mind. "But there's one thing
I should like to have you tell her, Halleck: she was wrong about that girl;
I never had anything to do with her. Marcia will understand." Halleck made
no reply, and Bartley resumed, in a burst of generosity, which marked his
fall into the abyss as nothing else could have done. "Look here, Halleck!
_I_ can't marry again for two years. But as I understand the law, Marcia
isn't bound in any way. I know that she always had a very high opinion of
you, and that she thinks you are the best man in the world: why don't _you_
fix it up with Marcia?"

Bartley was in effect driven into exile by the accidents of his suit for
divorce which have been described. He was not in bodily danger after the
first excitement passed off, if he was ever in bodily danger at all; but
he could not reasonably hope to establish himself in a community which had
witnessed such disagreeable facts concerning him; before which indeed he
stood attainted of perjury, and only saved from the penalty of his crime by
the refusal of his wife to press her case.

As soon as her father was strong enough to be removed, Marcia returned to
the East with him, in the care of the friends who continued with them. They
did not go back to Boston, but went directly to Equity, where in the first
flush of the young and jubilant summer they opened the dim old house at the
end of the village street, and resumed their broken lives. Her father, with
one side palsy-stricken, wavered out every morning to his office, and sat
there all day, the tremulous shadow of his former will. Sometimes his old
friends came in to see him; but no one expected now to hear the Squire "get
going." He no longer got going on any topic; he had become as a little
child,--as the little child that played about him there in the still, warm
summer days and built houses with his law-books on the floor. He laughed
feebly at her pranks, and submitted to her rule with pathetic meekness in
everything where Marcia had not charged them both to the contrary. He was
very obedient to Marcia, who looked vigilantly after his welfare, and knew
all his goings and comings, as she knew those of his little comrade. Two or
three times a day she ran out to see that they were safe; but for the rest
she kept herself closely housed, and saw no one whom she was not forced
to see; only the meat-man and the fish-man could speak authoritatively
concerning her appearance and behavior before folks. They reported the
latter as dry, cold, and uncommunicative. Doubtless the bitter experiences
of her life had wrought their due effect in that passionate heart; but
probably it was as much a morbid sensitiveness as a hardened indifference
that turned her from her kind. The village inquisitiveness that invades,
also suffers much eccentricity; and after it had been well ascertained that
Marcia was as queer as her mother, she was allowed to lead her mother's
unmolested life in the old house, which had always turned so cold a
shoulder to the world. Toward the end of the summer the lame young man and
his sister, who had been several times in Equity before, paid her a visit;
but stayed only a day or two, as was accurately known by persons who had
noted the opening and closing of the spare-chamber blinds. In the winter
he came again, but this time he came alone, and stayed at the hotel. He
remained over a Sunday, and sat in the pulpit of the Orthodox church, where
the minister extended to him the right hand of fellowship, and invited him
to make the opening prayer. It was considered a good prayer, generally
speaking, but it was criticised as not containing anything attractive
to young people. He was understood to be on his way to take charge of a
backwoods church down in Aroostook County, where probably his prayers would
be more acceptable to the popular taste.

That winter Squire Gaylord had another stroke of paralysis, and late in the
following spring he succumbed to a third. The old minister who had once
been Mrs. Gaylord's pastor was now dead; and the Squire was buried by
the lame man, who came up to Equity for that purpose, at the wish, often
expressed, of the deceased. This at least was the common report, and it is
certain that Halleck officiated.

In entering the ministry he had returned to the faith which had been taught
him almost before he could speak. He did not defend or justify this course
on the part of a man who had once thrown off all allegiance to creeds; he
said simply that for him there was no other course. He freely granted that
he had not reasoned back to his old faith; he had fled to it as to a city
of refuge. His unbelief had been helped, and he no longer suffered himself
to doubt; he did not ask if the truth was here or there, any more; he only
knew that he could not find it for himself, and he rested in his inherited
belief. He accepted everything; if he took one jot or tittle away from the
Book, the curse of doubt was on him. He had known the terrors of the law,
and he preached them to his people; he had known the Divine mercy, and he
also preached that.

The Squire's death occurred a few months before the news came of another
event to which the press of the State referred with due recognition,
but without great fulness of detail. This was the fatal case of
shooting--penalty or consequence, as we choose to consider it, of all that
had gone before--which occurred at Whited Sepulchre, Arizona, where Bartley
Hubbard pitched his tent, and set up a printing-press, after leaving
Tecumseh. He began with the issue of a Sunday paper, and made it so spicy
and so indispensable to all the residents of Whited Sepulchre who enjoyed
the study of their fellow-citizens' affairs, that he was looking hopefully
forward to the establishment of a daily edition, when he unfortunately
chanced to comment upon the domestic relations of "one of Whited
Sepulchre's leading citizens." The leading citizen promptly took the
war-path, as an esteemed contemporary expressed it in reporting the
difficulty with the cynical lightness and the profusion of felicitous
head-lines with which our journalism often alleviates the history of tragic
occurrences: the parenthetical touch in the closing statement, that "Mr.
Hubbard leaves a (divorced) wife and child somewhere at the East," was
quite in Bartley's own manner.

Marcia had been widowed so long before that this event could make no
outward change in her. What inner change, if any, it wrought, is one of
those facts which fiction must seek in vain to disclose. But if love such
as hers had been did not deny his end the pang of a fresh grief, we may be
sure that her sorrow was not unmixed with self-accusal as unavailing as it
was passionate, and perhaps as unjust.

One evening, a year later, the Athertons sat talking over a letter from
Halleck, which Atherton had brought from Boston with him: it was summer,
and they were at their place on the Beverley shore. It was a long letter,
and Atherton had read parts of it several times already, on his way down
in the cars, and had since read it all to his wife. "It's a very morbid
letter," he said, with a perplexed air, when he had finished.

"Yes," she assented. "But it's a very _good_ letter. Poor Ben!"

Her husband took it up again, and read here and there a passage from it.

"But I am turning to you now for help in a matter on which my own
conscience throws such a fitful and uncertain light that I cannot trust it.
I know that you are a good man, Atherton, and I humbly beseech you to let
me have your judgment without mercy: though it slay me, I will abide by
it.... Since her father's death, she lives there quite alone with her
child. I have seen her only once, but we write to each other, and there are
times when it seems to me at last that I have the right to ask her to be
my wife. The words give me a shock as I write them; and the things which
I used to think reasons for my right rise up in witness against me. Above
all, I remember with horror that _he_ approved it, that he advised it!....
It is true that I have never, by word or deed, suffered her to know what
was in my heart; but has there ever been a moment when I could do so? It is
true that I have waited for his death; but if I have been willing he should
die, am I not a potential murderer?"

"Oh, what ridiculous nonsense!" Clara indignantly protested.

Atherton read on: "These are the questions which I ask myself in my
despair. She is free, now; but am I free? Am I not rather bound by the past
to perpetual silence? There are times when I rebel against these tortures;
when I feel a sanction for my love of her, an assurance from somewhere
that it is right and good to love her; but then I sink again, for if I ask
whence this assurance comes--I beseech you to tell me what you think. Has
my offence been so great that nothing can atone for it? Must I sacrifice to
this fear all my hopes of what I could be to her, and for her?"

Atherton folded up the letter, and put it back into its envelope, with a
frown of exasperation. "I can't see what should have infatuated Halleck
with that woman. I don't believe now that he loves her; I believe he only
pities her. She is altogether inferior to him: passionate, narrow-minded,
jealous,--she would make him miserable. He'd much better stay as he is.
If it were not pathetic to have him deifying her in this way, it would be
laughable."

"She had a jealous temperament," said Clara, looking down. "But all the
Hallecks are fond of her. They think there is a great deal of good in her.
don't suppose Ben himself thinks she is perfect But--"

"I dare say," interrupted her husband, "that he thinks he's entirely
sincere in asking my advice. But you can see how he _wishes_ to be
advised."

"Of course. He wishes to marry her. It isn't so much a question of what a
man ought to have, as what he wants to have, in marrying, is it? Even the
best of men. If she is exacting and quick-tempered, he is good enough to
get on with her. If she had a husband that she could thoroughly trust, she
would be easy enough to get on with. There is no woman good enough to get
on with a bad man. It's terrible to think of that poor creature living
there by herself, with no one to look after her and her little girl; and if
Ben--"

"What do you mean, Clara? Don't you see that his being in love with her
when she was another man's wife is what he feels it to be,--an indelible
stain?"

"She never knew it; and no one ever knew it but you. You said it was our
deeds that judged us. Didn't Ben go away when he realized his feeling for
her?"

"He came back."

"But he did everything he could to find that poor wretch, and he tried to
prevent the divorce. Ben is morbid about it; but there is no use in our
being so."

"There was a time when he would have been glad to profit by a divorce."

"But he never did. You said the will didn't count. And now she is a widow,
and any man may ask her to marry him."

"Any man but the one who loved her during her husband's life. That is, if
he is such a man as Halleck. Of course it isn't a question of gross black
and white, mere right and wrong; there are degrees, there are shades. There
might be redemption for another sort of man in such a marriage; but for
Halleck there could only be loss,--deterioration,--lapse from the ideal. I
should think that he might suffer something of this even in her eyes--"

"Oh, how hard you are! I wish Ben hadn't asked your advice. Why, you are
worse than, he is! You're _not_ going to write that to him?"

Atherton flung the letter upon the table, and drew a troubled sigh. "Ah, I
don't know! I don't know!"





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